It is that time of year that the skies begin to boom, much to the terror of many of our canine friends. Many dogs have fears of loud noises , and thunderstorms and fireworks seem to top the list for most. The good news is that there are some very effective natural ways to help calm your pet this time of year.
1. Flower essences – the best known essences are the Bach flower essences, of which there are 38. Every flower actually has its own energetic essence that can have therapeutic benefit. The most effective remedy will vary with the individual constitution of your pet, so you may need to try a few to see which is most effective. These essences can be given full strength in the mouth or put in the water dish for ongoing benefit. Two of my favorites for fear and anxiety are Rock rose and Mimulus, or you can try the old standby Rescue remedy which is a combination of five of the essences.
2. Essential oils – these are also plant products, but are processed differently than the flower essences and use a variety of parts from the plants. Some suggestions on specific oils include lavender, valerian, and vetiver. These oils can be applied topically, ingested in a capsule or used as aroma therapy. It is very important to check for the purity of oils before used for ingestion, as some are diluted with potentially toxic substances. Caution must be used when administering essential oils to cats as there is some evidence that they may not be able to process them properly which can lead to toxicity. I do not recommend oral administration to cats. Topical administration should be done intermittently and aromatherapy should be used in an area that the cat can leave if it has had enough of the therapy.
3. Body wraps – many of you have heard of Thunder shirts. I have seen better success with a product called the Anxiety wrap, see more at anxiety wrap. This product actually targets specific acupressure points that help with anxiety.
All of the above can be used alone or in combination. Often times, the effect is enhanced when more than one modality is used. In some cases, we still need to go the route of traditional sedatives such as Valium or Acepromazine, but I still recommend the use of the natural therapies as they will often decrease the amount of sedative that is needed.
Remember also to keep your pet confined in a place it cannot escape from or become injured while trying to escape. A panicky pet will often exhibit unusual behavior such as jumping fences or chewing through enclosures.
If you are with your pet when it becomes frightened, try a distraction such as a toy or treat and reward any signs of calm behavior. We sometimes re-enforce the fear by providing attention for the behavior in the form of comfort.
All pets are different and will respond differently to different therapies. I recommend trying a variety of combinations until you find the best one for your friend.