Stress and Anxiety
Stress has an important role to play in the survival of any species but it becomes a problem when it is ongoing and an animal is unable to cope. Stress of any kind impairs the body’s ability to heal and impacts their quality of life. Stress and anxiety can predispose to a number of health issues including infections, allergies, skin problems, bladder inflammation in cats and a number of other diseases.
Symptoms of stress can include behavioural changes, obsessive licking or chewing, aggression, depressed behaviour or hiding, barking and even diarrhoea to name but a few. A number of factors can cause stress and anxiety including extreme weather, fireworks, storms, moving house, changes in routine, feeling unwell, not getting enough exercise, overcrowding, the loss of another pet or owner, or even not knowing their place in the family “pack” or being constantly badgered by another animal eg. A newly introduced cat in the area or a new puppy that just wants to play the whole time when the old dog needs to rest.
Limiting stress by getting to the root of the problem and avoiding stressful situations is ideal but sometimes this is impossible. In these cases it is important to help the animal to cope with the stress as effectively as possible.
A vet check will help to identify underlying issues. A balanced approach is important ensuring that your pet has enough exercise, rest and relaxation, playtime and optimal nutrition. Sub-optimal nutrition is a huge factor undermining animals’ sense of well-being and their ability to cope with stress. Good nutrition with a well balanced raw, natural food diet that is free of chemicals and preservatives is an important first step in helping to take the edge off (and often alleviate!) behavioural disorders, stress and anxiety.
Nutrients such as B vitamins are well known for helping animals and humans deal with stress and reduce nervousness. Other nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids are helpful to moderate extreme behaviours and anti-oxidants can be incredibly useful to help an animal to “feel well in itself” and thereby cope better with stress. The latter are also helpful to help boost the immune system and prevent infection. Tryptophan, an amino acid, helps to bring about the feeling of calmness and well-being;
A “magic bullet” that many animal owners make use of for themselves and their animals is Flower Essences, the most well known being Rescue Remedy. Homeopathic remedies may also be helpful. Calming herbs such as skullcap, valerian and lavender have a calming effect are useful. Other herbs such as ginseng and astragalus are adaptogenic and help animals to cope better with stress.
There are also commercially available pheromones, types of chemicals that animals use to communicate, which help dogs and cats to feel calm and relaxed available from vets. A Christchurch company has developed the Canine Calm Coat helping to reduce anxiety by gentle compression with a comfortable coat. Many pets benefit from this.
Behavioural training can also be very important.
There are many options to help alleviate stress. Often a combination provides a highly effective approach and animals are transformed to enjoy improved health and vitality.