You know that happy, calm feeling you get after enjoying a big Thanksgiving meal? That's tryptophan at work. Naturally occurring in turkey, eggs, milk, and a variety of other sources, this amino acid helps regulate two important processes in your body: mood and sleep.
While it's long been used to help humans optimize key areas of their well-being, from appetite and sleep to mood and pain, have you ever thought about trying tryptophan for dogs?
Today, we're taking a closer look at how this substance works and the difference it could mean for your beloved canine companion.
1. Tryptophan and Serotonin: A Crucial Link
Before we explore its uses in pet care, let's discuss the basics of this nutrient. In short, tryptophan is an essential amino acid. While it plays a role in many different bodily functions, it's arguably best known for the way it triggers your body to produce serotonin.
Also known as the "happy" or "feel-good" hormone, serotonin is actually a neurotransmitter that acts like a hormone. This means it's a chemical that your nerve cells naturally produce. Once it's released, it sends signals back and forth between those cells, helping to regulate a range of bodily processes, including your:
- Bowel movements
This is true for both humans and their four-legged pals. The serotonin levels in your pup's brain affect their behavior, pain awareness, appetite, heart and lung function, and body temperature, among other functions. It's such a necessary part of your dog's diet that this study specifically recommended that they consume at least 1.1 grams of tryptophan per kilogram of dry matter food to maintain their basic health.
When their tryptophan (and by extension, serotonin) levels are elevated, you should find that they're more focused and their behavior is more stable. You may also notice that they seem happier, calmer, and less agitated.
1.1 Serotonin Syndrome
Maintaining adequate, balanced levels of serotonin is key to helping your dog feel its best.
However, when serotonin levels get too high in the synapses of a dog's brain, it can lead to a condition known as serotonin syndrome. This can be a side effect of certain anti-anxiety medications, including serotonin-specific re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), prescribed for both pets and their people. The side effects of serotonin syndrome can range from uncomfortable to fatal and can include:
It's important to understand this condition, including how and where it originates. Yet, if you're simply supplementing your pup's diet with snacks and treats that contain tryptophan, you shouldn't have to worry about this health issue. It takes a very large amount of serotonin to trigger these effects, which you cannot get by safely administering low-dosage treats alone.
Most often, it occurs when a pet is taking multiple medications or supplements at the same time. This is why it's so important to talk to your veterinarian before making any changes to your pup's dietary regimen or lifestyle, including the decision to add tryptophan to their routine.
2. How Does It Work?
When a human or canine ingests tryptophan from food, it's converted into one of two things:
- Vitamin B3
The 5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin. Vitamin B3 is an essential vitamin that's critical to your pet's overall health and bodily function.
One of the best parts about tryptophan is that it's natural. That means your pet's body will instinctively know how to properly process and metabolize it. You don't have to worry about any unwanted side effects that might occur with certain man-made or synthetic ingredients.
3. Tryptophan for Dogs: Is It Safe?
There have been studies conducted on the benefits of giving the tryptophan amino acid to pets. To date, it appears as though the results have been primarily positive. Still, we recommend speaking to your vet about your pup's individual health history before adding any type of supplement to their existing routine.
4. Where Is It Produced?
Serotonin is produced throughout your body and your dog's body, including the:
- Digestive system
- Central nervous system
- Blood platelets
Before it can be created, tryptophan must be present. As an essential acid, this substance does not occur naturally throughout your body or your dog's body, although you both require it for proper function. Instead, you must obtain it through your diet.
Let's take a look at the best places to start.
5. Natural Sources of Tryptophan
While tryptophan supplements can help you make up for low internal levels, there are also many foods that are high in this amino acid. They include:
- Whole milk
- Canned tuna
- Chicken and turkey
- Nuts and seeds
That aforementioned anecdote about getting drowsy at Thanksgiving? While people have long associated turkey with the tryptophan it contains, there isn't actually enough of the amino acid in turkey to cause serious drowsiness. In reality, you are more likely to feel tired after a big meal due to the work that your body must go through to digest all that you ate! That, plus the emotions and stress of a big gathering can be enough to send you straight to dreamland.
Still, turkey, chicken, and other high-protein foods (including nuts and milk) can be great sources of natural tryptophan, along with the other food items on this list. Yet, you might be looking at these options and thinking, "But I feed my dogs kibble. How can I make sure they're getting enough of what they need?"
We get it, and that's why we've created our CBD wellness treats, oils, and topicals specifically formulated for our canine companions.
While you can feed these human foods to your pup on occasion, you don't want to completely overhaul their existing diet. Instead, many pet owners choose to supplement their dog's regimen with a product that contains naturally occurring tryptophan, such as our Bailey's Calming CBD Yummies!
Recognized as the #1 USA-made CBD dog treats for anxiety, our Calming CBD Yummies are grain-free, soy-free, and vegan, and packed with a delicious peanut butter and banana flavor that pups crave. Designed to take effect in as little as 30 to 60 minutes, they're the simple and natural way to help curb your pet's anxious behavior.
6. Benefits of Tryptophan for Dogs
When you consume tryptophan, you might not even realize what's going on inside you. Rather, all you'll notice is that you're suddenly in a calmer and happier state, and your nervousness and anxiety are at bay.
This is similar to the amino acid's effects on your pup. Let's review some of the top benefits you can expect when you incorporate it into their lifestyle.
6.1 Less Anxiety and Agitation
Tryptophan could help your pup become more emotionally stable and less tense. You should also notice fewer symptoms of stress and anxiety. This may allow you to take them to more places with ease.
It may also help with any separation anxiety that your dog may be experiencing. If you have to leave them at home for an extended period of time, such as to go to work, a treat could help ease their canine mind and adjust to their alone time!
However, treats alone aren't likely to be enough to spur major changes in your pet's demeanor. For the most effective and longest-lasting results, it's best to combine tryptophan-infused treats with other steps, including regular exercise and a safe home environment. You may also want to consider beginning a consistent CBD routine once you speak to your pet's veterinarian.
6.2 Less Agitation
Does your pup seem to act super nervous or agitated around other, unfamiliar dogs or people? When this is the case, it can be difficult to go nearly anywhere with them in tow! Even a simple car ride to the dog park can be difficult.
Tryptophan can help them ease into a state of gentle relaxation. This way, they're less apt to become unsettled when they encounter a situation that's new to them. This may also include the veterinarian's office or the groomer.
In addition, it may also reduce their anxiety around loud sounds, such as thunderstorms or fireworks. While it's still smart to keep your pup's ears protected in those environments, you may find that a storm doesn't bother them quite as much as it once did.
6.3 Easier Pain Management
Another application of tryptophan is in the field of neuropathic pain management. If your pup suffers from any type of achy bones, muscles, or joints, then this amino acid can naturally alter the way they perceive this pain.
While it's still important to make sure they can access any pain-relieving treatments your vet recommends, tryptophan and CBD-infused treats are a great way to keep some of the symptoms at bay!
- Reduce pain and inflammation
- Easier appetite regulation
- Easier time falling and staying asleep
6.4 Temperature, Sleep, and Appetite Regulation
Temperature. Appetite. Sleep.
Think about how you feel when just one of those elements is off-kilter. Your furry pal is the same way!
When they're eating too much or too little, it can upset their stomach and cause them to feel sluggish and fatigued. When they're too hot or cold, it's nearly impossible for them to get comfortable. When they are unable to fall and stay asleep, they'll spend the next day lying around lazily, trying to muster up their energy.
The serotonin that tryptophan releases can play a major role in regulating all of these functions. Researchers also believe it can help strengthen your pup's heart and lung function.
7. Potential Side Effects to Know
At this point, one of the biggest questions you might be asking is, "Will tryptophan make my dog too drowsy?" After all, you're probably thinking back to that one Turkey Day when you ate such a big feast that you promptly took a nap on the living room couch!
The good news is that you don't have to worry about that too much with your pup. As long as you follow your veterinarian's recommended dosage guide, your dog should have just enough tryptophan to help relax their mood and reduce their anxiety, but not so much that they're left feeling woozy or out of sorts.
Your dog will be as alert as normal, but the main difference is that they'll now be able to better manage certain environments and situations that used to elevate their stress levels. For instance, if you've noticed that your pup tends to get extremely agitated when you pull into the parking lot at the groomer's or when it's time to go back at the vet's office, you may want to keep a few of our Calming CBD Gummies For Dogs on hand!
In addition to tryptophan, our gummies also contain a host of other natural ingredients that can help your dog feel more calm and peaceful in distressing scenarios. These include:
- Valerian root
- Passion flower
- Naturally-occurring CBD
8. Dosing Tryptophan for Your Dog
If you're looking for a way to supplement your dog's regimen with tryptophan, the easiest and most effective way to do so is to administer a small treat or snack that contains the amino acid.
This way, you can be confident that you're only giving your pup as much as they need per their weight and activity level. Your veterinarian can guide you on the specific number of treats that your dog can safely consume on a regular basis. Each of our Calming CBD Yummies! contains 50mg of tryptophan per chew, for a total of 1,500mg of tryptophan per bag.
9. Help Your Pup Feel Calmer and Less Anxious
If you're looking into tryptophan for dogs, then your loyal companion is likely suffering from some type of anxiety or pain. If this is the case, then this specific amino acid is the one to consider.
When we formulated our Calming CBD Yummies! we knew that tryptophan would be a star player. Then, we added other, premium-quality, plant-based ingredients to synergize and optimize each treat's calming effects.