by Marlene Siegel, DVM
According to the ASPCA’s National Rehoming Survey, pet behavioral problems are the most common reason that owners re-home their pet. A large portion of the 47% of re-homed dogs and 42% of re-homed cats are due to behavioral issues, mostly aggressive or destructive behaviors.
Anxiety disorders are significantly higher in our pets today than we experienced 20 years ago.
The largest contributing factor is the level of toxins our pets are exposed to, particularly glyphosate. Glyphosate blocks the shikimate pathway found in bacteria. The shikimate pathway provides carbon skeletons for the aromatic amino acids L-tryptophan, L phenylalanine, and L-tyrosine which are needed to make the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters affect mood, emotions, appetite and digestion. As we see a decline in these neurotransmitters we see a rise in anxiety and aggression.
It is critically important to understand “why” an animal is expressing anxiety or stress and address the underlying problem.
Cats that feel threatened or endangered will trigger a fear response. This could be caused by strangers (new people), new pets, changing the furniture, moving the litter box, a dirty litter box, getting scared while in the litter box, loud noises or any negative experience.
Signs may include excessive vocalization, decreased appetite and associated weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, hiding, shaking, loss of litter box training, over grooming resulting in skin disease or attempting to escape.
Pain from arthritis or other medical conditions may mimic these signs. Some cats will experience cognitive dysfunction (kitty Alzheimer) where they vocalize excessively during the night. It is imperative to have a good medical workup and address underlying causes.
Signs of anxiety in dogs can range depending on the underlying cause of the anxiety. They may show heavy panting, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive barking or growling, pacing, withdrawal, or compulsive disorders.
Anxiety behaviors can be divided into 3 types of fear/anxiety.
The first has to do with fear of new situations and loud noises. Car rides, new people, strange animals, fireworks and the vet’s office (if they have had a negative experience) all can trigger fear in some dogs.
The second type of anxiety has to do with dogs that can’t calm themselves when left alone. This is called separation anxiety and affects close to 14% of dogs. Sadly, these dogs can cause massive property damage, eating through doors, ripping up carpet, breaking through windows and eliminating indoors (urinating and bowel movements) or excessive barking from the severe anxiety of being left alone.
The 3rd category has to do with cognitive dysfunction. As the pet ages it is like an Alzheimer patient, affecting memory, awareness and learning. They forget things like potty training, where they are and their sleep cycles can change. Like with cats, signs may be related to pain from arthritis or other medical conditions. Always seek answers through a good medical evaluation.
Things NOT to do when your pet is stressed or anxious:
1. Do not discipline! No yelling, hitting or discipline that increases the pets anxiety and strains the pet parent bond.
2. Avoid repeatedly exposing the pet to what is causing the fear or anxiety, they rarely desensitize and actually get worse with repeated exposure. (Proper desensitization may be attempted with a professional trainer.)
3. Do not reward anxious behavior by consoling or giving attention, this simply reinforces the anxiety/fear.
4. Obedience training goes a long way to help your pet understand what is expected of them AND you to learn how to communicate correctly.
5. Crate training is valuable. It creates a safe retreat for cats and dogs. They need a place to get away from other pets, toddlers, strangers and items (like the vacuum cleaner). Crating also prevents unwanted behavior, thereby reducing the need to discipline or strain the parent/pet bond. Consult a professional trainer on the best ways to crate train.
6. Feed a species appropriate diet, support a healthy gut with fermented foods and essential vitamins, minerals and Parent Essential Fatty Acids. www.evoloveraw.com for more details.
7. Provide proper exercise and mental stimulation appropriate for that species and breed. Consult training sites for specific details.
8. Raise parasympathetic tone while lowering sympathetic tone. Sympathetic tone is the part of the autonomic nervous system that regulates short term survival. It is the flight or fight response. When pets are in sympathetic dominance, they can not relax, learn or have good health.
I use several “frequency” devices to entrain my patients into a parasympathetic state so they can relax, repair, regenerate and learn. Pets entrain (take on) their owners energy state. When pet parents learn to relax, their pets will benefit as well.
9. Identify “triggers” that lead to stress or anxiety and avoid them. Using a webcam to see what is happening when you leave the pet alone is useful to help identify the problem.
10. Have a thorough medical work up (CBC, Chemistry panel, Thyroid, Urinalysis, Xrays are standard). I go further and check Vit D, Magnesium, B12, CRP (inflammation marker), arthritis blood marker and cancer marker along with bioenergetic testing to see what is out of balance in the body.
11. Work with a professional trainer to counter-condition (change the response to the stimuli with something desirable, like sitting and focusing attention on the owner) or desensitize the pet (introduce the stimuli below the threshold that creates the anxiety and reward the pet for not reacting). Always work with a professional once the proper diagnosis of the behavior disorder is understood.
12. Try natural products before using pharmaceuticals. There are herbs and homeopathics that may work for your pet. Be sure the label is safe for cats since some products may contain ingredients toxic to cats. Always choose fully organic and read the label for added ingredients that may be harmful. 13. CBD oil is my #1 behavioral supplement. Be sure it is from a reputable company (they should have a Certificate Of Analysis) and how is the product produced. In most cases
I prefer a full spectrum product made with CO2 extraction, and always buy organic!!
14. Pheromones are chemicals produced from glands (around the face, feet, and breasts) that send “messages” to other animals of that species. When leaving their pheromone message, cats may be marking their territory, “mark” the area as “safe”, attract a mate, create bonding, self soothing, signal happiness and contentment or send stress and fear signals. The pheromones are received through the vomeronasal organ, located in the roof of the mouth. When kitty rubs his head on you or the couch, he is leaving pheromone messages to himself and others.
15.Earthing is the simple process of reconnecting the body with the natural energy of the earth. The earth emits an electrical charge that, when transferred through the skin, helps balance the autonomic nervous system (our “stress center”). Simply be in direct contact with a naturally conductive surface—soil, water, sand, or stone—for at least 20–30 minutes a day.
16. Solaragem. This technology uses whole spectrum light and gemstones to transmit “frequencies” that restore the body's natural terrain. Contact me for details
17. Photodynamic and sound frequency therapy. Special frequency tones are played while the patient receives brain stimulation from LED lights. This reprograms the mind and allows the patient to relax.
18. Music that overlays specific sound frequencies that resonate with the body to create profound relaxation. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
19. For multi cat households where inappropriate elimination is occurring, have 1 more litter box than the number of cats in the house. Place them in safe strategic low traffic areas that
does not create a restricted entry or exit. Scoop the boxes at least once a day!
20. Use games to teach wanted behavior. Reinforce good behavior with healthy freeze dried treats, love and attention, helping the pet to feel confident and secure.
21. Homeopathic flower essences, herbs and essential oils (Be sure they are safe for pets and the pet
can get away from the smells if they choose) all have a place in lowering stress and anxiety if used
properly. Work with an experienced holistic veterinarian to select the proper therapy for your pet's anxiety.
22. TLC. Nothing helps more than tender loving care! Quality touch and time together is priceless!
23. If you still need more help, seek help from a veterinary behavioralist. Interview them before hiring and confirm they have a more holistic approach that aligns with your beliefs.
Not only are our fur kids being directly affected by increasing toxins, they also entrain to the emotional state of their human parent. Pets help their stressed out human that is living the SAD (Standard American Day) while eating the SAD (Standard American Diet). Fur babies give unconditional love, and even if it is only for a few minutes, they help their human be present and grateful for the unconditional love only a pet can provide.