Written by Ella White
Millions of dogs suffer with anxiety and stress disorders, and since these afflictions are also the most common kind of mental health illnesses in humans we understand how important it is to treat and heal them with the right medication and supplements. For dogs suffering with anxiety, there is the extra frustration of not being able to tell their humans what’s wrong.
So as dog owners, we can only do our best to love and look after our pets, and help them lead lives that are as non-stressful as possible. And that’s where L-theanine comes in.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea leaves. It has the benefit of promoting a feeling of relaxation without drowsiness, and has undergone plenty of scientific study to prove its stress-reducing and sleep-improving properties. It’s because a major element of Japanese diets in the 1960s after its anti-anxiety benefits for humans were found. And now we know it works for dogs, too.
L-theanine is proven to be safe for dogs of all ages and sizes. It’s a great alternative to other types of medicine like Xanax, Prozac, and Valium as it’s an amino acid without any negative side effects. If your dog has hypotension, it might be best to avoid L-theanine as it’s known to cause low blood pressure and headaches in some humans. It’s also not been tested on pregnant or nursing dogs, and some dogs with very severe phobias or behavioural issues might not show signs of improvement.
Once you’ve started giving your dog L-theanine, keep an eye on their behaviour and make note of any negative changes that imply it’s not working for them. Although L-theanine comes with very minimal risk, like all new medications and supplements, it’s advised you consult your vet and serve with caution at first. Most dogs show results within 20 days of taking L-theanine. If after 60 days there are no positive results, you should stop administering it.
The main use of L-theanine for dogs is to calm anxiety. Because it absorbs easily into the bloodstream, it quickly makes its way to their brain and helps to decrease anxious thoughts and behaviour and improve their mood. This doesn’t just make life easier for them, but for you too.
If your dog is feeling stress or anxiety, they are more likely to lash out or behave aggressively. So by helping them overcome their anxiety, they are more likely to be relaxed, obedient, and well-behaved. There are many ways in which L-theanine can promote a long-term calm mind and mood for your dog.
As we’ve covered, L-theanine is effective in easing anxiety in both dogs and humans. It does this by increasing the alpha waves in the brain to boost focus and maintain a sense of calm. The plus side is many chemical medications for this purpose can make your dog drowsy, but L-theanine doesn't. Instead, it increases dopamine and GABA to improve mood and help your dog feel at peace.
A calmer and less stressed dog is a dog that can sleep more easily. So if your dog struggles to sleep through the night, L-theanine could help. Stress causes poor sleep, so this compound can act as a double-whammy in helping them achieve a healthier sleep schedule.
When your dog feels less anxious and is sleeping better, they will feel more relaxed. As well as an overall feeling of happiness and wellbeing, relaxation can lower blood pressure and improve cognitive functions. By taking L-theanine for relaxation, you may notice your dog is less aggressive or destructive. It can also help to relieve inflammation that can slow signs of ageing in older dogs.
Though L-theanine is known to relieve stress and anxiety, and in turn improve mood and behaviour, it might not help in extreme cases of anxiety or aggression. L-theanine can calm dogs, but it won’t solve long-term, serious behavioural issues. In these cases, consult a vet or trainer about alternative medications.
Like in humans, anxiety in dogs can be caused by numerous factors including distressing experiences. If your dog trembles, hides, whines, or barks a lot these could all be signals that they’re stressed or anxious. Removing them from stressful situations is an easy short-term solution, but supplements like L-theanine are helpful in supporting dogs with on-going symptoms of anxiety.
Loneliness or being left alone for extended periods, loud noises like fireworks or shouting, the loss of an owner or other furry companion, and sudden changes like new people or new houses can all cause stress in your dog. In some cases, they will grow used to these factors but for other dogs they will benefit from extra support to help keep them calm and relaxed.
The amount of L-theanine that’s right for your dog varies depending on their specific needs, and the type of L-theanine supplement you go for. Most should be administered twice daily, although some can be given more frequently. Here is a rough guide of the recommended doses of L-theanine that can be given every 6 hours, depending on the weight of your dog.
Though there is no maximum dosage for L-theanine, it’s best to consult your vet before administering more than the recommended amount for your dog’s weight. Especially if they are new to the supplement.
Though L-theanine naturally occurs in black and green tea and some mushrooms, these plants probably don’t contain the doses your dog needs to benefit from the extra amino acids. Therefore, there are a number of tablets and treats on the market that contain more substantial quantities of L-theanine and will be more enjoyable for your dog to eat. You can hide a tablet in with your dog’s meals or hide it in a tastier treat like peanut butter. Or you can give out their dosage in treats.
Alternatively, supplements like Front of the Pack’s The One supplement is an eight-in-one dose of good health that supports your dog’s mental and physical wellbeing with its blend of clinically-proven ingredients. L-theanine in The One helps to trigger the release of ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin and dopamine. These improve your pet’s mood, while calming alpha waves in the brain help to reduce their anxiety.
It can be mixed into your dog’s food, giving their mealtimes an extra beneficial boost.