If you’re a dog parent, you undoubtedly want the best for your pup. As much as you may wish they’d get over some of their quirky (okay, and sometimes distracting) habits—like chewing, barking, and having accidents in the house—you want them to feel safe, loved, content, and ultimately at ease within their home. Like humans, however, not all doggos can feel this way without a little help. While medication and therapy do exist to help pups, you might want to start with a dog anxiety vest. Although they’re typically geared toward the Fourth of July (fireworks are often stressful), many vets agree that anxiety vests can prove beneficial all year round. Here’s why.
How dog anxiety vests help
Think of anxiety vests as the weighted blankets of the animal world. Veterinarian Lindsay Butzer, DVM, who is a spokesperson for pet supplement brand, Zesty Paws, says that by applying constant pressure, anxiety vests are able to relieve anxiety and induce a calming effect for nervous pups. “Whether it’s the pressure created when swaddling an infant, putting in a squeeze chute to receive medical care, or putting an anxiety vest on a dog during a thunderstorm, the calming effect of constant pressure on the body has been shown to meaningfully reduce anxiety levels,” she explains.
But don’t just take her word for it. Stats exist to back it up. “According to a study in the Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, dogs wearing compression vests had an eight percent lower heart rate and a 34 percent lower overall mean anxiety score,” Dr. Butzer reveals.
When to use a dog anxiety vest
Like weighted blankets, the anxiety vests for dogs have a time and place. According to Katy Nelson, a senior veterinarian at Chewy, dog anxiety vests create Deep Pressure Simulation (DPS), which relaxes the nervous system and decreases the flight or fight response. With that in mind, dog anxiety vests can come in handy in many scenarios—not just on the Fourth of July or when a storm is rolling in. If you know that your dog gets antsier at night, try seeing how they fare with an anxiety vest before bed; If they feel anxious around kids, consider testing an anxiety vest in that situation to determine how it affects their mood and demeanor.
Tips for an effective dog anxiety vest
In order for a dog anxiety vest to be effective, it must fit properly. “The vest should be snug around a pup’s chest and torso to create a gentle hug effect,” Dr. Nelson says, pointing out that it shouldn’t be so snug that it restricts movement. “One thing to note when fitting the vest is that the purpose of the neck strap is to keep the vest in place, and pet parents should be able to easily slide two fingers between the straps.”
If you see the vest slipping around over your dog’s coat when they’re in motion, go ahead and tighten it up a bit. “On the other hand, if your dog is showing signs of discomfort, such as yelping, howling, or trembling, you should loosen it up to a more comfortable fitting,” Dr. Butzer says.
In the event that your dog does seem uneasy while wearing his or her new coat, Dr. Nelson says you should remove it immediately, as it can make their anxiety worse. That said, it does take some getting used to, so if your dog doesn’t love clothes or harnesses to begin with, it might just take some time for them to warm up to the idea.
One way to help them do so is by creating a positive association with the garment. For example, my dog Cash doesn’t like harnesses or anything that feels like clothes, however, since he now knows it’s associated with treats and walks, he accepts it. The same is true of his dog anxiety vest. On the other end of the spectrum, if the vest is only put on when you’re the house that may create a negative association leaving, Nelson points out. Suffice to say, it might require some coaxing and creativity, but it’s worth testing out.
Once you’re certain that your pup is comfortable in their new vest, it’s totally acceptable to let them wear it for hours at a time, both vets assure us. To ensure your dog is as comfortable as possible, Nelson and Butzer agree that it’s best to take it off at least once or twice a day, or every three to four hours, to check for any signs of irritation.
5 vet approved anxiety vests for cats and dogs
ThunderShirt, Classic Anxiety & Calming Vest for Dogs — $38.00
Pros: The patented design is proven to be effective.
Cons: It’s pricier.
The ThunderShirt is the dog anxiety vest that started it all. “With its patented design, ThunderShirt’s constant pressure has a calming effect for most dogs if they are anxious, fearful, or overexcited,” Dr. Nelson says. “Based on surveys completed by over two thousand customers, over 80 percent of dogs show significant improvement in symptoms when using ThunderShirt.”
Pricing starts at $40 for size XXS.
American Kennel Club, Anxiety Vest for Dogs — $37.00
Pros: It’s especially comfortable thanks to the fuzzy fastener.
Cons: It only comes in pink and blue.
The American Kennel Club is a fantastic resource for all things dog-related, so it makes sense that their anxiety vest is a top pick for Dr. Nelson. “It applies gentle, constant pressure to help him feel safe and reduce anxiety during high-stress situations, like traveling, vet visits, thunderstorms, loud noises, meeting new people, or introducing new pets to the household,” she says. “It’s also great for dogs that are generally skittish or prone to separation anxiety. The simple design features fuzzy fastener straps so you can wrap the coat around your dog’s torso quickly and easily, and you can bring it with you wherever you go with your pup.”
Pricing starts at $30 for size S.
ThunderShirt, Polo Anxiety Jacket — $50.00
Pro: It’s sold in four color-block options.
Cons: It’s on the pricier side.
The ThunderShirt is truly hard to beat—and that goes for their patented polo design, too. “It’s made of durable, breathable, soft fabric that is washable,” Nelson says, applauding the anxiety vest as another of her top picks.
Pricing starts at $30 for size XS.
Surgi Snuggly, Dog Recovery Suit — $30.00
Pros: It’s sold in lengths in addition to sizes.
Cons: It’s not sold in very many colors.
The Surgi Snuggly Recovery Suit is technically designed for recovery after going under the knife, but it’s a great anxiety coat, too. “This [dog anxiety vest] covers the entire torso for added anxiety-reducing pressure,” Dr. Butzer says, acknowledging it as one of her top picks. “It’s capable of holding diapers in place when necessary, too.”
Pricing starts at $30 for size S.
Mellow Shirt, Dog Anxiety Calming Wrap — $25.00
Pros: Very easy on the wallet.
Cons: Run large.
Here we have the most affordable option of the bunch. Dr. Butzer recommends this particular dog anxiety vest for its easy-to-assemble silhouette, which takes just two steps. “It’s designed to allow for unrestricted mobility while maintaining effectiveness,” she says.
Pricing starts at $25 for size XS.
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