Weighted blankets are known to be very beneficial for human health. Their use has shown positive results for several conditions including anxiety, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), insomnia and autism. These blankets simulate deep pressure touch (DPT), a kind of therapy that uses firm, hands-on pressure to relax the nervous system.
But do weighted blankets have a similar soothing effect on dogs? Yes, they do. Just like humans, dogs suffer from different kinds of anxieties, caused by different situations and events. And in order to cater to their emotional and physical needs in an appropriate way, one needs to be able to identify and understand both their anxiety triggers and symptoms, as well as their physical conditions.
Common Causes of Stress and Anxiety in Dogs
It’s often seen that a lot of dogs go missing on occasions such as the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. This is because loud noises of firecrackers and large crowds tend to make dogs feel uneasy. Other sounds that may trigger a dog’s anxiety include ambulance siren, thunder, blender and vacuum etc.
Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs get upset because of being away from their guardians or people they are attached to. This is quite common in dog breeds such as Labrador, Retrievers, Border Collies as well as Australian and German Shepherds.
Some dogs don’t react well when you introduce them to an unfamiliar form of travel. It evokes feelings of anxiousness and fear in them. If you’re a frequent traveller, you should train your pet dog to be comfortable when confined, be it in a crate or by means of a seat belt.
Anxiety Symptoms in Dogs
It’s normal if your dog barks at someone or something suspicious; but if you find them barking without a reason and are difficult to calm down, it may be a sign of anxiety.
Decrease in Appetite
Just like human beings, dogs may not feel like eating when they’re stressed or anxious. This loss of appetite can result in weight loss.
Increased Sleeping Hours & Lethargy
Older dogs tend to sleep more than puppies. But if your lively dog is being lethargic or sleeping for a longer time than usual, it either means they are stressed or unwell.
If your trained dog behaves nicely when you’re around, but starts destroying furniture and other things whenever you leave even for a short while, it’s a strong indication of separation anxiety.
If your dog doesn't have any illness yet avoids interaction and continuously remains in isolation, it may be a sign that they are distressed.
Escaping or Hiding
At times dogs attempt to avoid people, places, things or situations that scare them by hiding or escaping. This can be in the form of running away, pulling on the leash, leaving the room or hiding behind their owner’s legs etc.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for your Dog’s Anxiety Treatment?
A weighted blanket is a safe way to help relieve your dog’s anxiety. Its effectiveness largely depends on how and when you choose to use it.
Smell of Familiarity
If it’s separation anxiety your dog is suffering from, then it’s best for the owner to first use the weighted blanket himself and then give it to the dog. This allows your dog to smell you in the blanket and gives them a feeling of comfort and familiarity when you’re not around.
A weighted blanket will also have a calming effect on dogs that fear loud noises. The blanket mimics the feeling of being hugged and thus gives them a sense of security.
If your dog has travel anxiety, a weighted blanket can help ease it down by making them fall asleep peacefully; it’s soft texture provides them the much needed comfort and its weight a sense of safety.
Some Safety Concerns Surrounding Weighted Blankets
Too Heavy or Big
Firstly, you need to check if the weighted blankets are too heavy or big for your pets. At times, the pressure of the blanket may make it difficult for them to move and thereby increase their level of anxiety, instead of reducing it.
Gravity blankets are usually filled with weighted beads. If your pet has a tendency or habit to chew, then you need to be extremely cautious. Eating these beads can pose serious risks to the health of your dog.
Certain Skin Conditions
Using weighted blankets on dogs with skin conditions like dermatitis, sores, flea allergy and hotspots may not be a good idea. The constant weight of the blanket can cause friction and pressure when they move and deteriorate their condition, making them very irritable.
Brachycephalic dogs such as Shih Tzus, Pugs, Pekingese English and French bulldogs have shortened snouts which prevents them from expelling heat. So, if the blankets are too warm and heavy, it can result in respiratory distress.
Tips to keep Your Dog’s Bed Clean
Vacuuming a dog’s bed can be difficult because of the tight spaces between seams and padding. So use a vacuum heat attachment that helps in cleaning those hard to reach areas. If you find dog hair entangled in the material, loosen the dirt and other debris with a brush and vacuum the bed again.
Spot Clean Stains
A common mistake pet owners make is that they don’t pay timely attention to the dog bed stains, allowing them to set in. Before you wash your dog’s bed, you need to caused by dirty paws, pet pee and wet mud by using an enzyme cleaner and towel.
Soak in Water
Soak your dog’s bed in a tub or basin filled with soapy, warm water. This proves effective in tackling dirt and killing bacteria. Press down on the bed with your hands to push out the dirt trapped in the padding. If the water turns dirty during this process, replace it with a fresh solution and repeat the process.
Use Pet Odor Eliminator
At times it becomes very difficult to remove the persistent bad smell from your dog’s bed. This is where come in handy. Angry Orange is a very popular and effective pet odor remover. Made from the oil found in orange peels, it can be used not only for your dog’s bed, but other areas including the yard, carpets, tiles etc.