Don’t let anxiety affect your animal friends by Dr Elaine Cebuliak

Goodbye 2020, and hello 2021! We have seen an increase in pet’s and their owners awareness of mental health issues and subsequently seeking ways to improve this for our New Years resolution.


If your dog or cat is anxious, there are other options besides drugs. Most of the time, our pets teach us how to face the world with a positive, happy attitude. They’re excited to go out in the morning, eager to eat, thrilled to see is, tickled to get a treat – most pets are pretty happy most of the time.

Have a thunderstorm roll into your area, however, or take out the carrier for a trip to the vet, and you may see total different behaviour. Cowering, shivering, whining, wetting the floor, growling and running to hide are all signs of anxiety in animals. If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, you may see more serious symptoms, like diarrhoea and skin lesions.

Your vet may recommend anti-anxiety medication, but what if you don’t want to put your pet on drugs?

Behaviour modification

You may want to try to teach your pet not to be afraid of whatever it is he is afraid of. If your dog is terrified of you when you’re wearing a hat, for example, and scurries to the other side of the house before you even put it on, you may be able to gradually get him to understand that you’re the same, friendly person you always are, and that you just look a little different.

You can start by showing the dog your hat, and speaking in soothing, calm tones. If your dog wants nothing to do with it, just leave it nearby on the floor or on the table, where he can see it. Keep picking it up and speaking in soothing tone. When your dog gets to where he doesn’t care anymore, if you pick up the hat, put it up on your shoulder. Again, speak in soothing tones. And continue gradually until you have it near your head, then just barely on your head, and finally completely on your head, until your dog is no longer afraid.

Sometimes, particularly if your rescued your pet from an animal shelter, you may have a situation in your hands that is not going to go away. It’s hard telling what the animal was exposed to before he came to live with you. Over time, fears may gradually diminish, but on the other hand – such as aging animals – fears can actually become worse, especially fears of loud noises.

The key is to relax and never punish your pet for displaying signs of fear, such as wetting the floor, as that will on escalate the problem. Try some of these ideas instead.

Some natural solutions:

1. Music: Particularly if you are going to be gone, certain types of music may help calm your pet. *Through a Dog’s Ears * is a clinically researched auditory series that features piano music shown to help calm dogs. According to study from Colorado State University, classical music may reduce stress in dogs. Heavy metal music, on the other hand, amplifies their anxiety and leads to more barking and shaking.

2. Thundershirt: You’ve probably seen the ads for this product. So far, people are saying that they work. The gentle constant pressure of the garment, which you wrap around your pet, has show in company surveys to improve symptoms in anxious, fearful or over excited dogs. Other similar products include the Anxiety Wrap and the Storm Defender.

3. Massage: You know how a massage makes you feel relaxed? It can do the same thing for your pet. In fact, many veterinarian offices now offer massage treatments, but you can do it yourself, as well. Just three to five minutes can be extremely beneficial. According to the Penninsula Humane Society, those animals that are massaged regularly are adopted more quickly than those who aren’t – because they are more personable and relaxed with people. The benefits are two fold, as studies have shown that time with your pet can also help reduce your stress level. Make sure you’re calm and relaxed before starting, then simply start with the shoulders (avoid the head) and use slow, even strokes.

4. Diet: Some hyperactive animals are having that way because of the food they are eating. Foods with synthetic preservatives, meals, and by-products can make anxiety worse. Pet owners often note a reduction in anxious behaviours after they switch from a high carbohydrate to a high protein diet.

To be continued next month 😊

To Book a session with Dr Elaine visit: ‘Animal Wellness’

Veterinary Integrative Care Clinic AND Advanced Veterinary Dentistry

1016 Stanley Street, Cnr Edgar St

East Brisbane 4169

Phone +61 7 31221997

Dr Elaine Cebuliak

Dr Elaine is a highly experienced holistic vet and pioneer of Animal Wellness in Brisbane. She also assists with many charitable projects in Australia and in Bali.

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