Have a stressed out dog or cat? Do not feel that you are alone. While for some it may sound unusual or even comical to hear that a dog or cat may live with stress or anxiety, it is far more common than most people realize. Unfortunately, relieving the stress is not a simple matter when it comes to dogs and cats. Since we cannot lay our dogs and cats out on a couch to talk out their issues, it is our job to instead try to identify the stress triggers, then lessen their impact or engage in as much avoidance of the triggers as we can accomplish. While many articles you may read may focus on training, behavior, chemical, or serotonin increasing prescription medication to calm your stressed out pet, since this is a natural healing site, my focus in this piece will be on applications of natural remedies for anxiety disorders.
If you have arrived at this page, clearly you have already identified that your pet has stress issues. Thus, I do not plan to delve into the different kinds of, or manifestations of stress. Let us instead get right to the point and talk about how we can give these poor stressed out creatures (and yourselves) some peace.
For dogs, I have seen a lot of success by supplementing with the amino acid, tryptophan. Many people recognize the amino acid tryptophan as a prevalent amino acid in turkey, which contributes to that stupor many of us feel following an overindulgent Thanksgiving dinner. I have also noted success by treating dogs with valerian, kava, and ginger. The problem with these aforementioned modalities is that after a few days, each commonly leads to refractoriness, meaning that the same doses become increasingly ineffective over time. Thus, I generally having a calming herbal treatment and a separate tryptophan based calming treatment, administered separately alternating every 2-3 days.
For our more challenging cases that do not respond effectively to these direct calming treatments, I would advise considering maintenance on St John’s Wort, an herbal treatment that raises serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of contentment and joy, while reducing feelings of fear and melancholy. In order to work properly, St. John’s Wort has to be administered daily as a maintenance treatment, as it takes time for it to build serotonin to an effective therapeutic level. Thus, it can take several weeks to see an improvement with St. John’s Wort. The good news, however, is that the aforementioned herbal and amino acid regimen can safely be used in conjunction with St. John’s Wort.
Pet formulations of all of these treatments can be found through a simple internet search. However, be careful to select reputable and positively reviewed products, as this industry is not FDA regulated and full of bogus products.
Cats I have found that stressed or anxious cats respond most favorably to a spray and plug in diffuser called Feliway. Feliway is a synthesized version of a feline pheromone that provides them feelings of contentment. A pheromone is a hormone messenger that is excreted by mammalian species that emits a scent that is picked up by other members of the species.
This particular pheromone in secreted by the glands of cats near the base of the ear. They commonly rub this scent on people as that are getting pet and even commonly on inanimate surfaces. When they are doing that, they are marking that person or object as safe.
By emitting a Feliway diffuser plug in, that pheromone makes the room smell more safe for cats, thereby often helping relieve stress and anxiety. The spray works for 6-8 hours, so it is ideal to spray on a favorite stuffed toy or handkerchief that can be kept in the carrier with the cat for car travel or trips to the vet.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.