What caused your dog to become afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks? You want your dog to want you but why does he have separation anxiety? Thunderstorms fireworks and dogs can make for a season of fear for your pet. Is your stress making your pet (or horse for that matter) nervous or did they just get that way?
Animals have survived through centuries by observing everything around them. They are constantly taking in sights, sounds, smells, touch perceptions, vibrations, anything they perceive as vital to survival. This information is then categorized, some being programmed to keep and other is filed away as unnecessary or unimportant data. The decision to keep or toss can be different for each species, breed, sex, age, and global habitat.
Whether an animal is a predator (the hunter) or a prey (the hunted) makes a difference in how they respond and react to situations. When a body goes outside of the endocrine systems “comfort zone” we start to see altered behavior to environmental situations. The endocrine system comprises the hypothalamus, thalamus, pituitary, pineal gland, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas.
These glands are in constant communication to balance messages that signal the body to work. Stress can push a body to the limit and beyond. Stress for an animal can be an inconsistent life schedule, too many animals in the home, too much confinement, not enough exercise, lack of vital nutrients, a grain-laden diet, separation or loss of a friend (animal or human), pain, disease, thunderstorms, fireworks, arthritis, allergies, or even an owner who is nervous and upset, and there are more. The combination can be as varied as the number of stressed animals out there because no two beings are identical. How you react and respond can make a difference in the overall outcome. Eliminating the symptoms first involves identifying the etiology. Finding the cause and changing that part of the animal’s lifestyle or health status may resolve the stress reactions. I like to first address mineral patterns. The body needs calcium and magnesium in order for the nervous system to be calm and relaxed. Lacking these vital nutrients an individual cannot be calm. He will ramp up in a stressed situation escalating without the ability to stop until exhaustion hits. Zinc is also a very important mineral and works with calcium for body functions across many levels.
This assessment can be made with a simple fur test. A small sample is clipped from the belly, submitted to a laboratory, and the results of tissue mineral and toxic metal levels will be received in 3 to 4 weeks. A customized nutritional balancing program targeting specific minerals and vitamins for your pet can then be designed. Herbs are also helpful in transitioning from the nervous state while waiting for nutrients to achieve their cellular positions. Oral calming herbs include St. John’s Wort, Valerian, Passion Flower, Kava, Eleuthero, and Skull Cap. Topical or aromatic herbs such as lavender can also be beneficial in some situations.
Pheramone collars like NurtueCALM™ 24/7 will help some cats and dogs. This therapy mimics the pheromone that the mother dog or cat produces to calm and reassure her pups or kittens. Animals recognize these pheromones throughout life. When the collar is in place, the perception of the pheromone by the cat or dog is immediate. However, as in every behavior program, the visible improvement in specific behaviors requires some time, depending on a variety of factors: the cat or dog, the nature, duration and severity of the problem, and behavior modification (animal and owner). Usually, an improvement in specific behavior signs is seen during the first two weeks after wearing the collar, but some animals require a month to exhibit visible improvement. The active ingredient in the NurtureCALM™ collar is androstenone, which is an interomone.
Therapeutic options can also include thunder shirts, behavior modification, drugs, and a prescription medical device called Alpha-Stim™. Comforting the body with a caressing concept, as in the Anxiety Wrap™, works well for some dogs. Cats are generally not fond of such a “contraption” (Their words, not mine!). Having a dark, secluded, quite space in which to hide is also helpful. Behavior modification is important no matter which approach you decide to take toward changing your pets focus on the situation and life choices.
Drugs used to treat anxiety, stress and depression do not come without a caveat of toxic effects and many are prescribed off-label in animals. Toxic signs may include depression, agitation, ataxia, tremors, dry eyes, rapid heart rate, vocalization, and seizure activity.
Alpha- Stim™ has no systemic side effects and the treatments are cumulative and long lasting. A very low level microamperage wave is delivered to the body via little ear clips (like an IPod). This helps to normalize the body by inducing a balance in signals or frequencies between the endocrine organs. Physiologically it also increases blood and cerebral spinal fluid levels of beta endorphin and serotonin. This device has been on the human market for over 38 years and is FDA regulated for anxiety, pain, insomnia, and depression. Alpha-Stim® can successfully treat a variety of human and animal stress conditions.
You can’t stop thunderstorms and if you can’t move to a state where fireworks are prohibited then dealing with it becomes a priority. Try some of these suggestions to help get your pet through the rough seasons. They have worked for others.
Learn more about it: Alpha-Stim™ Training for Dogs
Ava Frick, DVM, CAC, FAIS