Updated: Jan 26
How many of you have, or know someone with, a dog or cat who suffers from anxiety?
Well, actually, when the animal suffers... we all suffer!
Does Miss Maddie look scared to you? Yes, even my dog has her anxious moments! Particularly thunderstorms. Otherwise, not much else phases her!
Anxiety comes in many forms, for many reasons.
It can be chronic (long-lasting & frequent), or acute (sudden & short).
Anxiety can arise from:
Animals can actually sense changes in the atmosphere, such as barometric pressure, hours before a storm arrives!
Travel anxiety is very common in pets.
Other dogs/ animals
Dogs & cats who have not been properly socialized may have a fear of other animals.
Being left alone
Small children are often loud, fast, and unpredictable. This can cause animals a lot of stress and induce bite reactions.
Being in a new home or environment ....to name a few!
Dogs and cats can also become anxious from boredom and a lack of stimulation. Providing them with some puzzle toys for mental stimulation and exercise can help greatly!
Anxious pets are miserable, which can affect them in a variety of ways.
They cannot function well, they are downright a hot mess, and are sometimes dangerous.
Anxious behavior can take many forms:
Obsessive licking of self or objects
Diarrhea ...And even flat-out aggression & attacking.
Some more subtle signs of anxiety may include dilated pupils, ears pinned back, drooling, and excessive shedding.
*Learn how to read body language to know when a pet is anxious.
That's a lot of variation, huh?
What do all of these behaviors have in common?
Animals usually exhibit anxious & aggressive behaviors due to fear.
Fear of being left alone
Fear of loud noises
Fear of newness
Fear of an object or person
Fear of their surroundings
Pair a few of these together and you have yourself a ticking time-bomb.
Dog is anxious because the owner left for work > A new mailman arrives > Loud siren outside goes off.
By the time the owner gets home, the dog is heavily panting, jumping, barking, and the house is destroyed. This is called trigger stacking. And it's usually not addressed when evaluating an anxious pet.
All too often, anxiety is seen as a disorder, instead of an emotional imbalance with an underlying cause that needs to be addressed. Many pet owners will bring up anxious behaviors to their veterinarian, and the veterinarian will prescribe a medication. Sedatives, mood altering drugs such as fluoxetine, tranquilizers, and more.
Prescription medications can have their own side effects, mainly I have seen dogs and cats become very agitated and aggressive in mood altering drugs.
Do they even know what is causing the anxiety? Did they even ask? What about the anxious dog/ cat's lifestyle?
While working with clients, I always first address the dynamic in the pet-owner relationship & the household overall.
Is the dog/ cat bored?
Do they get enough exercise?
Is another pet in the household causing tension/ fights?
Who is the leader?
Does the dog have rules?
Is he/she held accountable?
Does the dog lack confidence?
Has the dog/ cat been properly socialized?
When did the problem start?
When is it worse?
What makes it better? ...plus More.
If the anxiety has been a chronic problem, or is a new & frequent behavior, I definitely recommend training. All unwanted dog behaviors need training.
*Cats generally need change and remediation to areas of their environment to decrease or eliminate whatever is making them anxious. This could be something as simple as changing the litter box location. Please see this post on managing stress in cats.
For dogs, I'll recommend the owners work implementing a strict training regimen, desensitization techniques, and working through the trigger(s).
This is always the main thing discussed, as it is the first place to start.
I do frequently recommend alternative remedies in acute situations to help ease the sudden symptoms of anxiety, and while working through some training. I find that sometimes getting the dog calm enough to focus on the task at hand is a great step to redirect their mind. For some dogs, this does not work and training just needs to be pushed through.
What I recommend depends on the needs of the pet, and what type of anxiety we are dealing with.
Ya know, it's not until I type this all out that I realize the same could be applied towards humans.... Why are we so anxious? Does any of the above resonate with you? ;)
My Top Favorite Remedies:
🌟 Note: These are NOT alternatives to training your dog or addressing your pet's environment for possible stressors. These are simply tools to be used in acute situations, and on an as-needed basis.
A great homeopathic remedy! Bach flower remedies are safe, very fast acting (seconds to minutes) and powerful in cases of sudden trauma or fear. I've given this for intense thunder storms that creep up without warning, or life stressors such as moving. It could even be used to help a new pet adapt to their new home. This brand has a large line of products for us humans as well, including kids! Since homeopathy has been used since the 1700's, and is not known to cause any side effects, it's a great option for those who are new to holistic remedies or are nervous about giving supplements to their pets. I absolutely love Rescue Remedy, and have used it many times myself.
This remedy is featured in the "Pet First Aid & Emergency Preparedness Guide E-Book!" Great for travel anxiety, emergency evacuations, and more!
All animals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) in their body.
"...the ECS is critical for almost every aspect of our moment-to-moment functioning."
There are many scientific studies as well as anecdotal evidence to support the use of CBD products as a beneficial tool in promoting wellness. Two of the primary benefits of using CBD are the calming effect of mind and body. CBD can be used as-needed for occasional anxiety, such as long car rides, or for overall health long term.
Not only is CBD calming, it also decreases inflammation in countless ways! Here's an interesting piece I found in my research:
"The ECS is involved in the development of many neurodegenerative conditions. Cannabinoids have been shown to have neuroprotective properties, possessing the ability to reduce neuroinflammation, and promote neurogenesis. ...In Alzheimer’s Disease, cannabinoids are able to clear the toxic beta amyloid plaques associated with this disease."
That being said, I prefer Super Snouts Hemp Company CBD Phyto 150 (their CBD oil comes in a variety of strengths) as well as the Chill Out calming hemp chews which have chamomile & passionflower for extra calming effects.
Super Snouts is USA grown and harvested, 100% organic, and tested for potency & purity!
Check out their test results here.
*One drawback to CBD, is that it can take a little while to kick in. You also might need to play with the dosing a bit to find what works best.
A snug 'coat' that wraps the dog tightly, promoting a sense of security, and safety. This works great for storm anxiety. As well as boarding, and car rides. Paired with desensitization training, of course.
Aromatherapy has many proven benefits! One of which being calming, and grounding effects. We use Valor and Cedarwood frequently! I have them in roll-on dilutions, diffuser combos, and in sprays. Great to use for when guests come over if your pet gets anxious around strangers, or if you're headed to the vet. Put a drop or 2 on your hands, rub your palms together and then gently stroke down your pet's back. I do this with my dog using Valor essential oil! She loves it and it works like a charm!
Other helpful essential oils that are safe fpr pets:
*I only trust Young Living Essential Oils.
Catnip or chamomile can have a great effect on calming the mind and body. You can bake treats using these herbs or buy them in tinctures or chews. Adaptogenic herbs are another great option to utilize. Certain herbs can be calming and restorative to the GI tract as well to promote balance within the system and combat the secondary effects of emotional stress!
Pheromones are especially great for keeping the peace in multi-pet households. These come in sprays, plug-ins, and even collars for the pets to wear.
Many veterinarians have these in the clinic to make the environment calmer for anxious patients. And let me tell you; It works! Some clinics sell these products, but they are now on store shelves at farm supply and pet stores as well!
Crystals carry an energy all their own. I have various stones we will use in times of high stress or uncertainty. Ok I'll admit, I have hundreds! I love Selenite, Citrine & Lapis. Amethyst is also a very calming and balancing stone. Shungite can be used to clear negativity in the space as well. Sit with your pet and hold a stone while petting them and watch both of your stress levels diminish!
Sound healing & Binaural Frequencies
Classical music has been shown to help calm animals, so leaving the radio on quietly is a very simple way to provide some relief! Especially at night or when you're gone at work.
My favorite tune for anxious dogs (especially new puppies) is a 9 hour sequence. Perfect for those long nights when you just need some rest and quiet! Perfect for the beginning stages of kennel training. Toss it in Bluetooth and enjoy!
Furthermore, we can also use diet as a way to change behavior. I have seen this work very well quite a few times when working with clients. One particular case included 2 cats in the household who were fighting. After we switched their food, it was reported that the cats were no longer at each other's neck... Literally!
I also like to use probiotics to address anxious behaviors. As I stated above, the microbiome plays a critical role in overall health and is probably the last thing a veterinarian would ever think of to address.
Not only does an imbalanced gut environment cause anxiety, high stress levels and anxiety can cause chronic inflammation and lead to imbalanced gut bacteria. It's a vicious cycle, really!
Ever wonder why an upset stomach and diarrhea happen with anxiety? The body works as a whole, and when part of it is disrupted, it causes stress on another area. Emotional disturbances and GI health are very well-known to be connected.
Some veterinarians carry supplements which contain different amino acids, and herbs to combat stress in dogs and cats.
Addressing the animal's diet all together can make a huge difference in Whole Body Wellness in managing your pet's stress & anxiety.
Hopefully you found some of this information helpful!
And again, all of these work best with the proper training and behavior modification techniques.
It's always important to visit your veterinarian for a check up to address unwanted behaviors as it can sometimes indicate an underlying medical problem. Inappropriate urination could be a UTI, frequent hiding could be a sign of pain, and so forth. Cats are experts at hiding pain and discomfort!
If your dog or cat gets a clean bill of health, it's worth checking into and trying some of these natural remedies to address their anxiety.
My dog gets by with the occasional dose of Rescue Remedy and CBD for acute anxiety.
How do you keep your pet(s) calm?!
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