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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Easing Stress and Anxiety for Your Pets Without Drugs

Jul 29, 2015 09:54PM
There are pets that don’t seem to have a care in the world, easily settle in to new environments, or never even know that there is a huge thunderstorm churning outside. Fireworks? What fireworks…

Not all pets are this fortunate and not all people are fortunate enough to have these easygoing pets. For many years, it was automatic to dispense sedatives to pets for anxiety. In some cases, medication is still absolutely necessary, but a majority of the time, it is unnecessary, and even harmful. Sedatives and other types of medications can cause unsafe drops in blood pressure or heart rate, and if your pet is on any other medications, can cause unsafe interactions.

There are many ways you can help reduce anxiety for your pet. Finding the right product or change in routine is the key to success. It does require a little bit of trial and error to learn what works, but once found, you and your pet will be very happy with the results.

Possible Areas of Stress Change in routine. Our pets are creatures of habit and like their routine. They get used to certain sounds and surroundings, certain people or pets being home, even being in certain cars. It is unreasonable to think that we can suddenly alter what they know, and expect them to behave in exactly the same way.

Too many pets. Like people, pets may like some pet mates but not others. Some groups of animals may get along better than others. A group of two may be too many or eight may work just fine! To help alleviate stress make sure that there is adequate space for each animal to have a place of its own. Separate beds or cat trees in different rooms can provide these comfortable places. Food and water should not be near the litter box and may need to be in several areas around the house. There should be 1 litter box per cat (and not all in the same location!).

Comfort while you are away. Leaving the radio on can be an excellent companion as it will cover some noises, and hearing voices can give the impression a person is home. For some animals, it is better to leave the curtains or blinds open, for others this is horribly over stimulating! It may even be necessary to separate animals when you are not home.

Travel. Riding in cars can be very stressful for some animals, especially cats. Leaving the pet carrier out in plain sight all the time is a way to desensitize your cat from its sudden appearance. Put some treats in the box, or a blanket. Dogs may need very short car rides, or even practice getting in and out of the car. A familiar blanket or toy can be helpful as a comfort item. Feeding a small amount of food or giving only a few “cookies” is a better choice the day of travel to avoid nausea or vomiting.

Trips to the vet. I ask my clients to bring their dogs by the office just for a visit, no needles! Or bring along a companion for moral support for the patient we need to see. This has made a huge difference for many of my patients. Unfortunately, this is not as helpful for cats.

Products for Stress and Anxiety Bach Rescue Remedy. This formula contains 5 flowers so it is less specific in its treatment of fears or anxieties. There is an alcohol-free animal version. This is very safe, can be used directly in the mouth, in the water bowl, or mixed with a small amount of food. If the animal version is unavailable, the human product will also work. Feliway & Adaptil. Feliway is for cats, and Adaptil is for dogs. These products mimic the soothing hormone that a female cat or dog emits to soothe its kittens or puppies. The spray can be used on blankets or bedding, a carrier can be treated prior to using, a bandana may be sprayed and worn by the pet. A word of caution, do not spray directly onto the pet, and allow the spray to dry for a few minutes after applying. There are also “plug ins” that are used in electrical outlets throughout the home and refills changed monthly. Feliway wipes are available in single use packages which are great for the carrier and travel use.

dog and friend

Homeo Pet Products. A variety of homeopathic formulas designed to address particular problems. The liquid can be administered directly into the mouth, or put on some food. I routinely use the TFLN Storm Stress for thunder, fireworks, and noise issues.

Vetri-Science Composure Pro. This soft chew contains amino acids and B vitamins to produce a calming effect similar to eating a big turkey dinner. It can be used as needed or on a regular basis.

Ginger. Fresh ginger root cooked into a tea and cooled, ginger powder, or ginger candy (no artificial sweetener) is helpful for nausea from carsickness. Many dogs like ginger and, because it can be used in a variety of ways, can be easy to use.

Chinese Herbal Formulas. These formulas are more specific in their use. The correct choice is dependent on many factors which can be determined through a TCVM exam and thorough history.

Dietary choices. Food can have a tremendous effect on pet behavior. Many pet foods are now filled with corn, wheat or soy, and not appropriate for our pets. Ingredients can affect thirst, BM’s, urination, skin condition, hyperactivity, weight, as well as behavior. Every food also has an energetic and thermal quality in the study of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine food therapy, and this information can be utilized to make better food choices for your pet.

These are a few possible pathways to successfully reduce stress for your pets. Regular yearly physical exams, blood, fecal and urine tests are very important to detect any medical issues that may be underlying reasons responsible for stress reactions.

Dr. Karin Derfuss, DVM, is a graduate of Cook College, Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine, and IVAS certified in veterinary acupuncture.

The Branchburg Animal Hospital, 1167 Route 28, Branchburg. 908-707-0045. See ad on this page.

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