March 30, 2016 Blog

Soothing the Anxious Dog: Drug Free

Soothing the Anxious Dog: Drug Free

animal medical centerI recently examined a new canine patient diagnosed with a rare genetic disease. The clinical signs of the disease are worsened by panting, caused by either exercise or anxiety. Since we don’t yet have a gene therapy for this disease, managing this particular patient revolves around managing anxiety and the situations that cause anxiety. I thought other dog families might find this information helpful in managing their anxious dog – no matter the cause of the anxiety.
Lavender Therapy
Herbalists have long prescribed lavender filled pillows to promote better sleep, aromatherapy to decrease stress, and lavender tea to soothe the stomach of nervous humans. For some of my patients, the exam room is a stressor. I find a daub of lavender oil on the ear tips may relax them and make their annual exam a more pleasant experience. I choose the ear tips to keep pets from ingesting the lavender oil as they clean themselves.
Anxiety Vest
The gentle hugging pressure of a snug fitting anxiety vest calms many anxious dogs. The vest’s effect appears to be effective for anxiety caused by a variety of situations, including: thunderstorms, travel and separation from the family. Some believe the vest’s pressure on the torso releases calming hormones like endorphins, decreasing the anxiety level.
Music
In 1697, William Congreve, an English Restoration playwright, wrote “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast.” Over the past 300 years, scientific research has proven Congreve correct. Today, musicians compose and record music specifically for the ears of dogs and cats.
Consider playing species specific music as a part of your pet’s anxiety management plan. Since much of the genre of music is a reprise of the classical music repertoire, it just might make your next road trip more pleasant.
Milk
Everyone’s grandmother ascribed to the notion that a nice glass of warm milk would make you sleepy, but milk contains very little of the sleep inducing agent tryptophan. Despite this information, a couple of my feline patients with separation anxiety have seemingly improved when taking a casein (milk based) antianxiety nutraceutical. Mother’s milk also figures into the commercially available canine pheromones. This product mimics a substance secreted by a nursing mother dog. The pheromones promote the bond between puppies and mother, but are also calming to adult dogs. If this product soothes your dog, you may want to put a pheromone collar on her before you go out for the day or spray her crate to make her associate happy thoughts with spending time in her crate.
If these non-drug remedies don’t help your anxious dog, get professional advice from your veterinarian. A professional dog trainer may be able to help modify some anxiety behaviors. Click for suggestions on choosing a trainer for your dog.
If your veterinarian is stumped, consider finding a board certified veterinary behaviorist to manage your dog’s anxiety.

Tags: amcny, animal medical center, animals, ann hohenhaus, anxiety, behavior, dogs, pets,

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