Nutrition and Behavioral Problems

It never ceases to amaze me what fantastic changes take place when an animal begins to receive a well balanced, wholesome, natural diet with optimal amounts of nutrients. Older animals show a remarkable improvement in their general vitality and well-being while younger animals show improvements in these areas as well as pronounced positive changes in their temperament and overall tractability. Sub-optimal nutrition is a huge factor undermining animals’ sense of well-being and their ability to cope with stress, which is usually the underlying issue of many behavioral problems.

Unfortunately many commercial foods don’t manage to achieve this. They are generally heavily processed destroying a significant amount of nutrients and, especially biscuit or crumble formulations, are very deficient in vital omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. In addition to this, they frequently contain additives to improve the taste of the food, which may not only be detrimental to long term health but also contribute greatly to an animals’ poor behaviour.

High concentrations of sugar (also listed as corn syrup or sucrose) and some artificial flavourings in certain foods have also been linked to behavioural abnormalities such as nervousness, hyperactivity, anxiety and aggressive behaviour in children and pets.

It has been shown that optimal amounts of omega 3 fatty acids are of great assistance to children with ADD and to people who experience mood swings and this is true for animals as well. Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B’s are especially helpful to support the nervous system and to moderate extreme behaviours. Tryptophan, an amino acid, helps to bring about the feeling of calmness and well-being; it can be a very useful aid in reducing dominance associated aggression.

As part of resolving behavioural disorders, we always address nutrition as an important first step in helping to take the edge off (and often alleviate!) behavioural disorders and anxiety. Other useful tools are Rescue Remedy or Emergency Essence, calming herbs such as skull cap and valerian and therapies like NIS and homeopathy. Additional considerations of importance are guidance from an experienced animal behaviourist and aids such as toys.

All in all it can be challenging to treat behavioural problems but once the basics are applied, most animals can be well managed and quality of life restored for all involved!