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How Do You Increase Serotonin in Dogs?

Magnifying glass laying on a page over the word Serotonin

Serotonin is one of the major neurotransmitters in the brain of your dogs. It is responsible for a range of positive emotions and feelings, like confidence, calmness, and concentration. Hence, a lack of Serotonin can make your pooch aggressive, anxious, and fearful. Fortunately, owners can help their dogs to increase Serotonin (inside their bodies) by giving them quality food. Keep reading to know more about Serotonin and learn how you can increase its quantity in your dogs.

Need to know “How to Cheer Up a Depressed Dog”? Click here to learn more.

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is, basically, an amino acid that is manufactured by the brain and the intestines. Similarly, it is also present in the central nervous system and platelets. Some people consider it a hormone (because it’s produced in the brain) but that’s not true. This is because it is made from tryptophan, which is another amino acid. The reason why Serotonin decreases is the competition between tryptophan and large neutral amino acids (LNAAs).

If there are too many LNAAs in your dog’s body, the quantity of tryptophan will decrease. This will ultimately result in an insufficient amount of Serotonin in dogs. Owners need to counter that by giving their pups a balanced diet that could increase the ratio of tryptophan to LNAAs. Likewise, some carbohydrates will be needed to improve the absorption of Serotonin.

What Happens if Your Dog Has Insufficient Serotonin?

Chihuahua mix cowering next to a wall

A lack of Serotonin means that your canine friend will become nervous, anxious, and aggressive. They will start behaving in a strange manner and it can be quite depressing for the owners. However, this condition can be improved by determining the extent of stress and following a suitable recovery plan. For example, it’s highly recommended to visit your vet and let him/her examine your dog.

The vet will check the level of stress and your dog’s overall well-being to figure out the necessary steps. Several physical signs of dogs can show stress and some of the most common among them are listed below.

  • Ears are held back or pulled forward (in a tense manner)
  • Dilated pupils to an extent that the sclera becomes clearly visible
  • Excessive panting and lip licking
  • Tucked or high-flagging tail

A dog tries to communicate his/her feelings through these signs but novice owners might not be able to understand. Hence, visiting your vet can save the day for you and your furry companion.

Do Dogs Take Human Antidepressants? Click here to learn more.

How to Increase Serotonin in Dogs?

Cupped hands holding a teal colored smiley face

The following are some of the best methods to increase Serotonin in your dogs.

Provide Quality Nutrition

The best way to improve the amount of this amino acid in your dog is to follow a 2-way approach. The first and most obvious thing is to give your pup a tryptophan-rich diet. Some of the ingredients that are rich in this amino acid are turkey, chicken, beans, lentils, and pineapple.

The other thing that must be done to complement these amino acids is to give specific carbohydrates to your dog. They will assist in the absorption of Serotonin and provide a significant boost to the amino acid levels. Some of the foods that are rich in those carbohydrates are brown rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, and oatmeal.

Feed a Low-Protein Diet

Overhead view of a hand full of dogfood being held over a bag of dog food with the dog watching

A lot of people believe that dogs suffering from a deficiency of Serotonin will need a high-protein diet. This is because protein is made up of amino acids and can be digested into basic units. However, there are different types of amino acids, and eating too much protein can cause medical complications. For example, dogs can develop urinary tract infections, kidney diseases, and liver problems.

NOTE: A high-protein diet is particularly dangerous for canines that have a history of kidney and liver issues.

Similarly, scientific research shows that dogs taking a high-protein diet are generally more aggressive. According to a study from Tufts University, dogs fed a high-protein diet are 32% territorially aggressive. On the other hand, only 25% of the dogs eating a low-protein diet are aggressive about their territory. Despite these stats, dog owners have mixed views and it’s highly recommended to consult with your vet for the best solution.

Try Supplements

4 different kinds of supplements on 4 silver spoons, isolated on a white background.

In some cases, tryptophan supplements are also beneficial to counter Serotonin deficiency. For instance, these supplements work quite well for canines that are already depressed. Likewise, they are useful for pups with extremely low tryptophan levels in their bodies.

These products provide an extra dose of the larger amino acid that can then be broken down into the desired nutrient. However, these supplements can have some side effects, like aggression, and must only be used after professional consultation.

Use Serotonin Medications

White pills on a blue background.

Although this method is often used as the last resort (due to side effects), it can help in reviving a stressed dog. Reconcile and Clomicalm are the two most popular brands that are used for this purpose. Even if your dog is taking these medicines, you must give him/her a quality diet to ensure proper absorption of Serotonin.

NOTE: Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any medications.

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