Zylkene: A Nutraceutical To Calm Anxious Pets
By Rachele Baker, DVM – Both dogs and cats can suffer fear or anxiety due to stressors such as thunderstorms, fireworks, moving to a new home, boarding, or a trip to the veterinary hospital or groomer. There are many products available to help pets deal with these kinds of stressful events including drugs, pheromones, and nutraceuticals such as Zylkene.
Nutraceuticals are products derived from food sources. Nutraceuticals have extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value of foods and are used to promote good health.
Many pet parents prefer to use all-natural products such as nutraceuticals instead of drugs to treat their pet’s fear or anxiety issues.
When dogs are exposed to stressful situations or events, they may react by engaging in destructive behavior, barking, or fear-related aggression. Fear of loud noises such as fireworks may cause dogs to whine, tremble, or seek reassurance from their owners.
When cats experience anxiety, they may exhibit signs of stress such as house soiling, urine spraying, compulsive licking, or aggression. Other signs of anxiety in cats include restlessness, avoidance, circling, and distress vocalizations.
Stress appears to play a significant role in the development of feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) which is inflammation of the urinary bladder with clinical signs such as increased frequency of urination, urinating outside the litter box, and/or blood in the urine.
A couple of years ago, my cat Chessie became very stressed when I took her with me to stay in a hotel while I attended a veterinary convention. Very soon after arriving at our hotel, I noticed that there was blood in Chessie’s urine. I had heard good things about Zylkene as an all-natural product to calm anxious pets, and I wondered if it might work for Chessie. So I went to the Zylkene booth in the veterinary convention’s Exhibit Hall and spoke to a salesperson there about the problems that my cat was experiencing. The salesperson was kind enough to give me a sample of Zylkene for Chessie. Chessie’s urine returned to normal after I treated her with Zylkene. I was very impressed with the efficacy of Zylkene in treating my cat’s anxiety-related issues.
Zylkene (made by Vetoquinol) is an all-natural, non-sedating, nutritional supplement that can help to decrease anxiety in both dogs and cats. The active ingredient in Zylkene is alpha-casozepine which is derived from a protein in milk called casein. It is thought that casein is the ingredient in mother’s milk that causes babies to become calm and relaxed after nursing.
Zylkene is classified as food and has been given GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Has Been Proven Safe And Effective
For The Treatment Of Anxiety In Clinical Studies
Although there are many products for dogs and cats on the market making various claims, as a veterinarian, I look for products that have been proven to be both safe and effective in clinical studies. Zylkene has been proven safe and effective in clinical studies of rats, humans, dogs, and cats.
Studies performed with rats demonstrated that alpha-casozepine worked as well as diazepam (Valium) for treatment of anxiety. Studies performed with healthy human volunteers showed that alpha-casozepine can be used to prevent the physiological effects of acute or chronic stress in people.
A study by Beata et al. in 2007 compared the effects of alpha-casozepine (Zylkene) with selegiline (Anipryl) for anxiety in dogs. Thirty-eight dogs were included in the study. This study demonstrated that alpha-casozepine and selegiline were equally effective in treating anxiety disorders in dogs.
Beata et al. also studied the effects of alpha-casozepine on anxiety in cats. Thirty-four cats were included in a 56-day trial against a placebo. This study demonstrated that alpha-casozepine was successful in treating cats with anxiety due to socially stressful situations. Cats that were treated with alpha-casozepine in this study showed improvement in fearful behaviors.
How Does Zylkene (Alpha-Casozepine) Work
To Calm Anxious Pets?
Alpha-casozepine is a natural biological substance derived from a protein in milk called casein. Alpha-casozepine is similar in structure to GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps to calm the brain. Alpha-casozepine binds to GABA receptors in the brain and therefore mimics the effects of GABA.
Zylkene can be used on either a short-term or long-term basis. The calming effects of Zylkene may be observed after just a few days of treatment. However, in some pets it may take longer. For chronic behavior issues, it is recommended that Zylkene be given for a minimum of eight weeks concurrent with a behavior modification program.
What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Zylkene?
Zylkene is lactose and preservative-free. It is non-sedating, non-addictive, and has no known drug interactions. In clinical studies of Zylkene in dogs and cats, no side effects were reported. It contains hydrolyzed casein derived from cow’s milk, so dogs or cats that are allergic to cow’s milk proteins may not tolerate it.
Mild gastrointestinal signs such as soft stools have occasionally been reported. These mild gastrointestinal signs tend to resolve on their own. If mild gastrointestinal signs are observed, consider reducing the dose.
What Is the Proper Dosage Of Zylkene?
The minimum effective dose of Zylkene is 15 mg/kg (approximately 7 mg per pound) per day. It comes in 75 mg (Small Dog and Cat), 225 mg (Medium Dog), and 450 mg (Large Dog) capsules.
How And When To Give Zylkene
Zylkene comes in a capsule containing a water-soluble powder with a milky taste that is appealing to both dogs and cats. Capsules can be hidden in a treat or the contents of the capsule can be poured out and mixed with food, liquids, or treats. It only needs to be given once a day.
Zylkene should be started a few days before an anticipated stressful event such as fireworks. Some animals may need to receive it starting five to seven days prior to a stressful event. For long-term potentially stressful events such a new baby in the home, it should be given for a minimum of one to two months (or longer if necessary).
Zylkene is not recommended for cases of aggression.
Treating anxiety in dogs and cats can be challenging. A multi-modal treatment plan may be necessary. Treatments for anxiety in dogs and cats may include behavior modification programs, drugs, pheromones, and/or nutraceuticals such as Zylkene. Avoidance of stressful situations is desirable but not always practical.
Zylkene has been proven safe and effective in clinical studies as a treatment for anxiety in dogs and cats. If you have a dog or cat that suffers from anxiety or anxiety-related issues, consider trying Zylkene to see if it helps your pet.