As a pet parent, watching your pet struggle with anxiety is upsetting. You may have tried to calm or alleviate your pet’s fears, or prevent an anxiety-based reaction, yourself without much effect. You may have wondered if that is just your pet’s personality and ‘the way it is’.
The great news is there are multiple options that can help in treating pet anxiety! One of those options is anti-anxiety medication which can help to ease a pet’s phobias and fears. For pets struggling with milder cases of anxiety, and for those who prefer not to medicate, we have seen good response to a number of complimentary or alternative treatment options.
Each of these treatments can deliver benefits depending on the individual pet. Some pets experience relief with these treatments, while others may not. We recommend that pets that have anxiety or phobias work with a veterinarian and trainer. These professionals can help your pet learn relaxation techniques and receive counter-conditioning training in conjunction with the following treatment modalities. For pets with resistant anxieties, your veterinarian may refer you and your pet to a behavioral specialist.
Supplements and Pet Anxiety
Evidence collected during studies on the effects of amino acid supplements on pet anxiety showed positive results. Supplements that utilize the calming benefits of certain amino acids, vitamins, and proteins can have a significant impact on anxiety in pets by bringing neurochemistry into balance and relaxing the central nervous system.
Hormonal therapy often relies on the use of synthetic pheromones which are emitted through diffusers placed throughout the home or contained in special collars. Pheromones are a bit like messages animals leave behind through their scent marking, and can produce feelings of calmness, security, and safety.
Another hormone used in treating anxiety is melatonin. Traditionally used for occasional sleeplessness in humans, melatonin can have a mild sedative effect on pets in lower dosages (while generally safe, any supplement or hormone should not be given without the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian).
The use of music therapy with canines is one of the more interesting approaches to treating anxiety. As you have probably experienced yourself, the rhythm, tone, composition, and volume of a song on the radio can affect mood (from the rapid pulse of techno to the soothing melody of a favorite concerto). When it comes to anxious canines, this particular modality uses piano compositions to reduce heart rate and instill relaxation. Often referred to as bioacoustics or psychoacoustics, music therapy is one of the more unique, noninvasive options for dogs suffering from anxiety.
Pressure to Relieve Anxiety
Last May in our Pet Safety: Thunderstorms and the Fourth of July blog post, we discussed the use of the Thundershirt to help alleviate storm and noise-related fear in our pets. The Thundershirt and Anxiety Wrap work by applying gentle, constant pressure which is shown to relax some pets, even when there is a noise-related phobia present.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbalism
There are a wide variety of herbal treatments for anxiety, excitability, and fear, as well as herbal formulas that work as a spray, like the popular Rescue Remedy. Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) has also been used in conjunction with Western veterinary medicine and uses herbs to promote health and well-being.
Since herbs are essentially natural medicines, and therefore can create side-effects and cause drug interactions, we recommend making an appointment to discuss these options and to ensure your pet is safely monitored during herbal- or supplement-based treatment.
Union Lake Pet Services’s Dr. Erica Hawker is certified in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a component of an Integrative Medicine approach to veterinary care. If you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Hawker or would like more information on pet anxiety, fears, and phobias, please call our office.