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Man's Stressed Friend: Anxiety in Pets

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens. Everybody remembers Julie Andrews singing about some of her favorite things: things like doorbells, and sleigh bells, and packages (all tied up with string).

But what happens when those things – doorbells and sleigh bells and package deliveries – aren’t some of our pets’ favorite things? When those things are actually stressing out our four-footed friends?

Many pets experience anxiety related to loud noises, strangers, travel, and other daily life experiences. The construction down the street makes them quiver. The mail carrier sends them into uncontrollable barking fits. And since Julie Andrews can’t exactly show up to soothe each and every pet with a song, we need to find some alternative - and effective - pet calming solutions.

How do pets exhibit stress?

Pets can exhibit stress in multiple ways. These include:

  • destructive chewing and scratching (themselves and household objects)
  • digestion problems
  • excessive drooling, shaking, barking, or whining
  • panting (in dogs)
  • litter box avoidance (in cats)
  • depression, lack of appetite or energy
  • stiff body posture
  • yawning

What might be causing my pet’s stress?

Loud noises, visitors, trips to the vet or groomer – pets can get stressed out by any number of things. All animals are unique and what one takes in stride may deeply affect another. Some potential causes of stress or anxiety include:

  • adapting to new surroundings/moving
  • changes in routine
  • separation anxiety
  • crate training or training sessions
  • fireworks, construction, or other loud sounds
  • travel/car rides
  • grooming/baths/visits to vet
  • shock, trauma, or mistreatment (past or present)
  • houseguests
  • injuries/illness
  • loss of companion (human or pet)
  • introduction of new human/pet to the house
  • doggie dementia

Do all calming aids make pets sleepy?

There are two different categories of calming aids: physically calming and emotionally calming. The physical calming aids are the “sleepy” ones, although not all pets will respond in the same way (which means it’s a good idea to do a practice run with these to see how your pet will react). Physical calming aids would encompass vet-prescribed sedatives, CBD, amino acids, herbs, minerals, and vitamins. These include valerian, chamomile, thiamine, tryptophan, magnesium, melatonin, and passionflower. Many products will use a combination of these things to control stress while also relaxing muscles.

Emotionally calming aids do not cause drowsiness; they allow a pet to function normally while reducing their stress. Examples include hemp seed oil, essences, pheromones, and compression shirts and blankets.

Is CBD legal? What is it? Will it make my pet “high?” What’s the difference between CBD hemp oil and hemp seed oil?

Lets take these questions one at a time.

First, is CBD legal? What is it?

CBD oils containing no more than 0.3% THC are legal over the counter in California, although they’ve been the subject of many changing laws. The laws do vary from state to state, and should be researched specifically for the location in question, as some places treat it as being in the same class as marijuana. But while CBD is an active ingredient of cannabis, the CBD product is actually derived from the hemp plant, which is the marijuana plant’s considerably less psychoactive cousin. We are keeping a close eye on this regulatory process for labeling and will provide updates as they become available.

Many customers have reported a variety of health benefits after using CBD products with their pets, including anti-anxiety and pain-relieving benefits, and it is therefore often used in various forms (oils, treats, etc.) by pet owners for issues such as fireworks anxiety, or chronic inflammatory pain.

Will it make my pet “high?”

CBD is non-psychoactive and contains very little to no THC (which is responsible for what we typically associate with the marijuana “high”); it is very different from recreational cannabis (marijuana), which is very high in THC and very low in CBD.

What’s the difference between hemp seed oil and CBD hemp oil?

The difference between CBD hemp oil and hemp seed oil stems from what part of the hemp plant they are made from, and therefore what they contain. CBD hemp oil is extracted from the stalks, flowers, and leaves, and contains CBD. On the other hand, hemp seed oil is made by pressing the hemp seeds until oil is excreted; hemp seed oil contains no CBD.

There are many additional terms associated with hemp products, such as "full spectrum" and "PCR" and pet owners should do further research to find the product that best meets their needs.

How does a compression shirt or blanket work?

Much like swaddling babies can make them feel secure and safe, a compression shirt or blanket provides pressure against your pet’s body, calming the nervous system. While not all pets need this kind of pressure, it does work very well for those who do. Often recommended for dogs with separation anxiety, it is a good option for pet owners who want to go drug-free (although many find additional success by combining compression products with pheromones or CBD).

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FUN FACT!

Dr. Temple Grandin invented the hug machine for people on the autistic spectrum, after witnessing the calming effects of a squeeze chute on nervous cattle getting shots. Autistic herself, she knew personally that physical pressure was helpful.

FUN FACT!

Dr. Temple Grandin invented the hug machine for people on the autistic spectrum, after witnessing the calming effects of a squeeze chute on nervous cattle getting shots. Autistic herself, she knew personally that physical pressure was helpful.

What do pheromones have to do with relieving stress?

Pheromones are a chemical that animals produce to communicate with each other (they are species specific, so cats and dogs don’t “talk” through pheromones). If you have noticed your cat rubbing you with their cheek, that’s a demonstration of pheromones in action; their facial pheromones are marking you as a “safe zone.” Synthetic pheromones, in sprays, collars, and plug-ins, mimic those chemicals to reassure your pet that they are in a safe place.

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HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Animals open their mouths, wrinkle their noses and raise their heads - a process which closes the normal breathing passageways for a moment so that the receptors in the roof of their mouth can breathe in the pheromones.

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Animals open their mouths, wrinkle their noses and raise their heads - a process which closes the normal breathing passageways for a moment so that the receptors in the roof of their mouth can breathe in the pheromones.

What else can I do to help?

The calming aids listed above are often helpful (and offer many options), but lots of pet owners find further success by enlisting the help of a pet trainer or behaviorist, through offering toys and chews to relieve stress or boredom, by providing quiet time in a crate or safe room, or with digestion aids to relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress.

The Big Picture

The Big Picture

All pets are different. What causes one to be stressed can be no big deal to another. And in the same way, what relieves the stress of one animal may be less effective to another. So if one of these solutions does not net the result you’re looking for, be patient and keep trying. The best thing you can do is to continue to provide your pet with love and support – don't stress!

What we like:
Stuffable toys provide a welcome distraction and outlet for energy for pets with consistently high stress levels. And calming aids like NaturVet Quiet Moments or JFFD Calm are helpful for special occasions (like the 4th of July) when you know your pet will be cowering under the bed.

Question still not answered?

Our pet experts are here to help!

Call us at (510) 609-3600 or send a message