UPDATED 5/2/21: Is your pup or kitty stressed? These times call for some extra nurturing for us and them, and homeopathy may be just the thing.
My dog’s chewed through my door; ugh…what do I do?!
She always looks so scared and stressed; I don’t know what to do!
He’s whining and crying when I go out and I feel so guilty leaving him. Help!
Can you relate? Our dogs and kitties, pick up on and absorb everything around them, including what we’re communicating through the energy we’re sending out. Today, the stress meter is off the charts. While they may not understand Covid and what we’re going through, it’s not surprising that our furry babies are feeling the burn, too.
It’s Dog Anxiety Awareness Week and we’ve diving into fixes to help them rest easier, and us, too.
So what can you do to alleviate their pain?
I’m a believer in choosing the pharmaceutical route only as a last resort, and in this case, luckily, there are many natural options to choose from.
Homeopathy is my first line of defense, because it’s completely safe and effective, and you can tailor the remedy to the individual dog.
Like human children, we know our dogs each have their own distinct personalities, likes, dislikes and quirks. And, this is exactly what homeopathy relies on as the foundation of us choosing the right remedy.
Before we tackle how to treat anxiety, let’s understand the different types.
There are two types of anxiety in dogs: behavioral and situational.
Behavioral anxiety is when your dog has ongoing anxiety. It can be caused by several things, including:
- abandonment by a previous owner/too many homes
- too many homes
- loss of someone close to them
Situational anxiety is fear of something specific happening now. That could be:
- going to the vet or groomer
- going outside
- loud noises like fireworks
My Chihuahua, Anabelle, was a puppy mill survivor and she is afraid of going out for walks. For the first two years of her life, she lived in a cage and never went anywhere. While she’s been with us for over five years now and has definitely improved in managing her fear, we still find her hiding under the coffee table at walk time.
In a case like this, I think it’s better to repeatedly expose her to what she’s afraid of, constantly reassuring her with calming talk and treats.
But oftentimes, exposure isn’t enough and we want something more.
How does the brain work?
The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain in domestic animals and the part responsible for higher order type of behavior like learning, reasoning and intelligence, including expression of emotional responses and memory and recall.
Prior to the last several years, almost nothing was known about how a dog actually thinks.
Thanks to a handful of medical professionals and labs around the country, that is changing.
Dogs are now partners in discovery, as opposed to things to be experimented upon.
Dr. Gregory Berns, Professor of Neuroeconomics at Emory University and co-founder of Dog Star Technologies—a company using neuroscience to enhance the dog-human partnership—has helped to train more than 100 dogs to willingly go through a brain scanner.
How fascinating is that!
What did he discover?
Some of his and his colleagues findings suggest:
- that the key evolutionary event that turned wolves into dogs was an amplification of genes related to sociality
- the commonality of brain structure suggests a certain commonality in function as well. Dogs have a hippocampus because they have to remember things, too. They have an amygdala because they get aroused and excited and scared, just like we do. They may even suffer similar mental problems.
- 13 of 15 dogs tested had equal or greater activation for praise than for food. Is that love? We don’t know, but it does show that most dogs have brain systems highly tuned to social rewards, and some even respond more to their owner’s praise than food itself.
- just as in humans, they found an area of the dog visual system that is strongly and specifically activated by faces. They called it the “dog face area.” Like the praise experiment, this demonstrates that dogs have more in common with us than we realized, and that they have the basic tools to process human faces.
- when testing reactions to different smells – their human, a dog’s (butt), and their own scent – dogs seemed to prefer their owner’s scent best
So, knowing what we now know, how do we address anxiety in our dogs?
Through a combination of factors, including:
- Behavioral – positive reinforcement for good behavior, sufficient exercise to tire them out so they’re calm, engaging their brains with tasks and tricks
- Supplemental – natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals as a first line of defense
What Are Your Options?
- Homeopathic remedies
- CBD Oil
- Supplements focusing on calming behavior
- Bach Flower Essences
For this post, I’m going to focus on homeopathy.
Why I like this option for anxiety so much is how it’s tailored to your individual dog (no one size fits all option) and the enormous amount of empirical proof that it works.
From the cases of Certified Veterinary Homeopath, Dr. Jeffrey Feinman:
“Dr. Jeff treated my skittish sensitive pup ten years ago. She was very aware of anything new or different. She was afraid of grocery bags, a pile of sheets, garbage cans at the end of the driveway and the first daffodil in the spring. At the time, I had a purple jacket and when I hung it on the back of a chair, she barked. Dr. Jeff told me to get a different colored jacket. Maybe she was trying to tell me to hang it in the closet.
“Anyway, she improved greatly being treated homeopathic-ally. Today, she is a loving and confident therapy dog who willingly ventures into many new situations.” Taffy W.
Here is a list of common homeopathic remedies for anxiety in dogs, but, again, it’s always best to do an individual case taking of that particular dog:
- Aconitum: Fear and restlessness following a frightening event, including a frightening experience at the vet or groomer’s.
- Argentum nitricum: Anticipatory anxiety, often with trembling and loose bowels.
- Belladonna: Extreme fear with dilated pupils and aggressive behavior. This is the classic picture of a feral cat caught in a trap, or an agitated animal crouched in the corner of a room or an animal carrier.
- Ignatia: Hypersensitivity, muscle twitches and moodiness. The animal may have a history of recent grief, loss or rehoming. These animals may sigh or whine a lot, and they can be irritable.
- Lachesis: Restless, sensitive to all stimuli, talkative and jealous. Some animals, especially dominant ones, behave like this with a new addition (animal or human) to the household.
- Natrum muriaticum: Moody outbursts, depressed and withdrawn. The animals don’t play well and often have a history of rehoming or loss.
- Nux vomica: Impatient, fearful and sensitive to stimuli. These animals may be the boss of the house in many situations, bullying the other animals and being demanding of people; yet a thunderstorm or a strange package in the house can cause them to tremble.
- Staphysagria: Gentle animals with angry or fearful outbursts. They are typically the low animal on the totem pole that wouldn’t hurt a fly, so their outburst is all the more surprising
- Pulsatilla – dogs with a mild, gentle, yielding disposition who are changeable in their moods like they can’t make up their minds regarding what they want. They tend to be contradictory and prefer the open air and their symptoms could be ever changing, too.
UPDATE – MORE TIPS!
I’m adding some Bach Flower Remedies here, as well as some other tips either I, or others I’ve spoken with have found useful:
Bach Flower Remedies:
If you choose to try Bach Flower Remedies, it requires dosing several times a day for at least 2-4 weeks before you may see a change in your dog. Also, since these remedies are made for humans and have a high alcohol content, we dilute them for animals. My dogs are between 7-18lbs and I use 12-15 drops of a remedy in an ounce of filtered water, stir and give with a plastic syringe.
It is also recommended to put drops of this mixture on their ears, paws, their bedding or where they like to hang out. In other words, to expose them to the remedy in as many places and ways as possible.
- Chicory – for possessiveness; clinging behavior and attention seeking.
- Heather – for noisy attention-seekers and loneliness
- Aspen – for fear and apprehension, whose cause is unknown. Sudden anxiety and nervousness, with trembling, shaking, panting, fearful look in their eyes and even cowering.
If you want a great book to learn more about Bach Flower Remedies for animals, I recommend this one, which was recommended to me by a holistic vet. Bach Flower Remedies for Animals by Helen Graham and Gregory Vlamis.
Also, German Chamomile flowers, made into a tea is a great calming herb for dogs, and can be given via syringe several times a day. I love the company Frontier Co-op. Their German Chamomile is excellent and I use it for my dogs, as well as to create a spray to calm Sophie’s skin when she is going through an itchy spell.
Not all CBD oil is created equal, and after much research, trying this on my own pets and an interview with the CCO and co-founder of this company, I am recommending ElleVet Sciences as my go to CBD product. Why: because they are one of the very few that have actual scientific studies and are third party tested. They control the ingredients because they grow the hemp plants themselves. And, they use parts of the plant like CBDA and THCA, that many other CBD manufacturers don’t; parts that have significant healing properties.
You can check out my interview with Amanda Howland of ElleVet here.
And, you can purchase ElleVet with the discount code HoundHealer10.
Anxiety in dogs is a deep topic that, to fully explore, requires more that this post is addressing today.
But, don’t despair! 🙂 I’ll be back looking at other common issues we face with our dogs and kitties and offer an alternative view on treating them.
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To their health –