While I am a person who is interested in alternative medicine, I am also deeply skeptical. I am open to the possibility that things other than Western medicine (vitamins, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, etc.) can be beneficial, but as a “thinker,” I need proof. Personal anecdotes and recommendations are useful, but I don’t like to use anything without understanding how or why it works, and I have a strong preference for scientific studies.
Since I’m willing to do everything possible to help my reactive dog, when I started to read about the various supplements others give their dogs, I wanted to know more. What supplements are commonly used with reactive dogs? Which are the most useful? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of? The problem I quickly ran into was that there weren’t any comprehensive sources of information. I couldn’t even find a list!
So I made one. I combed through years of email list archives to create a list over a dozen different supplements that people claimed helped their dogs. Then I started to read about what each supplement was, how it worked, and looked for the research to back it up.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing what I learned. Some of the supplements I’ll be discussing include tryptophan, 5-HTP, melatonin, l-theanine, flower essences, pheromones, vitamins, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and homeopathic remedies. If you have any burning questions about a particular supplement, let me know and I’ll try to include it. Conversely, if you’ve tried any of them, I’d love to hear about it!
This series will cover primarily supplements. This is because of the fact that prescription meds will need to be prescribed by a vet. If you think your dog would benefit from prescription medication, you will hopefully see a vet who is well versed in behavior. Still, if you’re interested in learning more about the different prescription medications used in behavior modification with dogs, I’d recommend checking out Mary Straus’ site, where she has posted an excellent guide to these various meds.
And of course, the disclaimer: I am not a vet, nor have I personally tried most of these supplements with my dog, which means that I cannot tell you if you should or shouldn’t use them with your own. I’m also a lazy researcher, and used Wikipedia for my starting point. Google filled in the rest, and while I think I’m pretty good at separating the good sites from the propaganda, I cannot verify the accuracy of their claims. If you want to use a supplement with your dog, do your own research, and consult with your vet. In other words: Use this information at your own risk.
Edit February 2015: Why I Chose Medication Instead of Supplements