Stressful situations can result in anxious behaviors that throw the body into constant fight or flight mode. During these times, the stress hormone cortisol is released in large amounts, impairing normal bodily functions and responses.
With the Fourth of July just around the corner, many pet owners run to the vet for prescription drugs to tranquilize and sedate their furry companion amidst the noisy, busy holiday weekend. But there are more holistic, less jarring means of comforting your pet during anxious times.
Anxiety contributors in your pet might include:
- Loud noises (weather, construction, fireworks, parades, city life, traffic, sirens)
- Boredom (understimulation, lack of exercise and play time)
- Being outside the comfort zone (travel, confinement)
- Poor health (obesity, diet)
- Discomfort or pain
If you've ever come home to a sofa in shambles, your pet might be suffering from anxiety. If your pet has suddenly stopped following commands, he might be under a load of stress.
Anxious symptoms include:
- Destructive behaviors
- Poor listening
- Poor decision-making
- GI upset
How to Minimize Stress in the Home
You can take some quick and easy steps right now to decrease anxiety around the household. Here's how:
- Practice grounding exercises. Animals pick up on their owners' stress. Remaining calm can help them do the same. Try meditation, breathing and mindfulness practices with your pet at your side.
- Stimulate your pet. Play time and exercise are important! Dog parks, cat scratching posts, laser pointers and walks are simple ways to avoid a bored pet. Nature helps humans, and the outdoors can help your pet!
- Maintain a healthy diet. Avoid obesity by feeding your pet optimal food in moderation with occasional treats to mix things up.
- Allow time for your pet to rest. Limit noise in and around the house.
Holistic Ways to Decrease Anxiety
On top of do-it-yourself stress reducers, holistic therapy can aid in decreasing your pet's levels of anxiety. Here are some holistic treatments:
- Acupuncture releases endorphins that combat cortisol levels, resulting in a calming effect. Many anxious and even aggressive animals take a nap during and after acupuncture!
- Thundershirts have the same calming effect as a squeeze chute. The fitted garments hug the animal--a gentle, constant pressure that gives a comforting, maternal feel.
- Massage therapy on certain acupressure points helps relieve stress much in the same way as acupuncture.
- Supplements decrease anxiety levels. Chinese herbs like Shen Calmer and Flower Essences such as Anxiety and Grounding are beneficial.
- Aromatherapy and essential oils stimulate serenity.
Tips for Fireworks
- Put your pet in a soundproof room, such as a basement.
- Place cotton balls in the ears but ONLY if your pet will tolerate this without adding more stress.
- Exercise your pet all day to tire him or her out!
- Give calming supplements as per recommendations. (Please call ahead to order!)
- Schedule an acupuncture appointment 1-2 weeks prior to the celebration. Pick up anti-anxiety supplements at this time as well!
- Have background noise, such as light classical music with a low vibrato, to distract from the thunderous vibrations.
- Make eye contact with your pet if you're around. It's proven to release oxytocin, a calming "love hormone."