Anxiety

  We all want to see our dogs calm, confident, happy and relaxed. And hopefully most of the time they are those things… but, anxiety is an issue that can and does arise in the dog psyche more often than we’d like – related to veterinary visits, thunderstorms, or separation from a beloved human (or other canine!) The question of anxiety and what can be done about it from a nutritional perspective is one I encounter  regularly, and one of the hardest to give a stock answer to, because in all truth there is so much variance in cause and severity. While diet alone can make a great difference, it will not effect much change if the issue is not dietary to start with. In other words, a protein-reactive dog WILL show improvement with lowered protein in the diet, but if he isn’t sensitive to protein it isn’t likely to help. One of my own (male Ridgeback and very hyperactive) dogs is sensitive to even a couple of percentage points increase. However, dogs evolved to have a high tolerance for protein – there is no actual Safe Upper Limit although problems with excess do exist outside of the behavioural. Personally I tackle this problem on multiple levels:  but in terms of protein I lower  the levels  to RA (Recommended Allowance) if it is higher; to minimal requirement if it is at RA.  It’s a good idea to include turkey in all the diets, as the sole or partial protein source.  Supplemental tryptophan may help; and it’s important to note that if a dog has been on a high carbohydrate diet with a lot of simple sugars either in the diet or added as treats, the dietary adjustment should be to minimize those carbs and raise both the “good “fats and quality protein sources. One cannot assume that all dogs need lowered protein if they tend to reactivity or nervousness, each case must be evaluated individually.Anxiety needs to be looked at behaviourally, of course;  I consider nutritional adjustments , appropriate herbs, and gentle de-conditioning to form the basis of the programme. TTouch, Flower Essences and assorted other ideas (like DAP) can help a great deal as well.General, overall nervousness  needs a different approach from the dog who has situational fear or specific phobias, especially herbally, but all can benefit from one or more of the ideas below.

Let’s break this down for  the sake of coherence. 🙂

Dietary

Again – what are the protein levels like in the diet? Some dogs who are on
extremely high protein diets find relief from panic attacks when the
diet is brought in line with more balanced nutrient percetages. The effect
appears to be twofold; first, lowering protein diminishes general reactivity in a percentage of dogs.
(I am using this a lot with SA and aggression, too) and second, increased
complex carbohydrate helps with serotonin production and therefore increases
a sense of wellbeing. I often feed a tryptophan rich meal (turkey is
probably the best source) with a carbohydrate snack shortly afterwards to increase
serotonin levels – this is something I’ve suggested for many, many
dogs and almost universally seen some positive result.  I also like to consider the possibility of a food intolerance causing anxiety, and some dogs clear up on a balanced  but restricted ingredient diet, using novel protein sources and a high presence of the Omega3 fatty acids found in coldwater fish.
As with other conditions diet can play a role but some experimentation is often called  for – important to keep an open mind and look for what works, not to mold the dog to a pre-conceived and often cherished! dietary theory.
Flower Essences

While many people swear by Rescue Remedy, I have
personally found a combination of Aspen, Mimulus and Rock Rose to be
most helpful, at times with other essence added in;Impatiens, Schleranthus – depends on the dog and what triggers her anxiety. Look into both Bach Flower essences – www.bachcentre.com and Sharon Callahan’s beautiful Anaflora line – http://www.anaflora.com/essences/index.html


I have used the Bach system for 25 years
and I find it most helpful, but others swear by Anaflora. With Bach it is
very much a matter of finding the best essence for your individual dog.
Flower Essences should be administered in two ways; first, use as often as needed during an acute attack, and second, find the essence or blend that works for your dog longterm. An excellent resource for working with BFEs for dogs is the book Bach Flower Remedies for Dogs, by Martin Scott and Gael Mariani. Another option is to check out the bach site, at http://www.bachcentre.com/centre/remedies.htm, and work with the information there as well as your knowledge and intuition regarding your dog.

 TTouch

There is just so much you can do here. I’ll try to keep this brief.

For those unfamilair with what TTouch – Tellington Touch – is, have a look around this site for an idea:

http://www.ttouch.com/whatisTTouch.shtml

What I can say – as a practitioner-in-training – I’ve taken five of the six required trainings, and plan to complete the last one this year – is that Ttouch is deeply powerful and transformative work. I use it for anxiety, but a whole host of other issues, and simply as a means to connect and deepen my relationship with all my companion animals. Well worth looking into whether you have anxiety issues or not.

First, I’d suggest looking into an anxiety wrap, which can help create a sense of safety and confidence. My own dog with thunder-issues is much better in her wrap and also prefers to be in her “den” – a space with a bed under my computer. Is there a place your dog wants to be when she is panicking? You could look into some basic TTouches such as ear slides and deeply relaxing light circles along with the wrap. Have a look:
http://www.ttouch.com/whyTTouch.shtml
http://www.anxietywrap.com/

An experienced Tellington Touch professional can be of great help to you as well, so if you have a problem that isn’t responding to  these measures, consider contacting someone locally. A list of practitioners can be found here:    http://www.ttouch.com/pracDirectory.shtml

And while I learned to just use the tensor bandages, and be tuned in to what seemed to work for the indivdual dog today we have the Thundershirt, so well worth a look as part of your anti-anxiety toolkit:  http://www.thundershirt.com/

 Other Ideas

Many people report good things about the DAP diffuser:
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn4923
I have not used this one personally but I may look into it as Daniel has a bit of SA -and there’s no reason not to add this one to my bag of tricks.

You might also want to look into some music therapy for thunderphobic canines: http://www.livingwithdogs.us/books/music.html
I have not tried these, but I have long used Gregorian chant, Native American flute and Celtic harp Cds to calm hyper dogs. Again along with the tryptophan, TTouch and Flower Essences we have a total approach.

Two last ideas: acupuncture for severe cases, and massage. If there is a licensed acupuncturist in your area and your case is unresponsive to these home measures I’ve listed, you could seek some professional help.
Acupuncture is amazing stuff in the hands of a skilled practitioner.
And massage is always wonderful for dogs – my RR Luke, the epileptic boy, was unusually tense and I worked with massage to help him relax and settle when he appeared very worried. You could literally feel the tension particularly in his head and neck dissipate as I worked on him. There are many
great books and sites that discuss canine massage; I might start here:

http://www.drschoen.com/articles_L1_03.html

Dr. Fox’s book The Healing Touch is the one I work with but there are many, many others available now.

Note that I am not recommending herbs here – well, not yet. I feel that herbs deserve a whole separate section as this is something I’ve been studying in much greater depth the past several years, and it’s important to know which ones can help your individual most.  We’ll look at chamomile, passionflower, kava kava, skullcap, valerian, blue vervain and several others in my entry on herbs for anxiety and other nervous issues; using them alone, in formulations, in what form and how to decide which one(s) are best suited to your dog.

And look into a behaviourist.A good, qualified, experienced and all-positive trainer/behaviourist is your very best friend – for all dog problems. ALong with everything else.

🙂

Resources

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10953712

Manual of Natural veterinary Medicine, Steve Marsden and Susan Wynn

practical experience/case studies/years on yahoogroups and personal research

Bach Flower Remedies for Animals; Stefan Ball and Judy Howard

all of Linda Tellington-Jones’ books, plus five trainings

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