Top Tips for Stressed Pets
There have been many studies, and a broad range of investigations conducted to assess how human-animal interactions and pet ownership more specifically benefits mental health and wellbeing.
Reductions in depression, anxiety and isolation as well as improvements in social support and general wellbeing actually makes owning a pet a very valuable mental health asset.
But what about our pets mental health?
Did you know that pets can experience stress too?
And whilst some of it may be situational, such as disliking noisy parties, fireworks or celebrations, and will pass once the event does, other forms of stress can be more ongoing, sometimes as a result of previous trauma, abuse or neglect, or perhaps in response to changing life and human circumstances that are beyond their control.
The good news though, is that there are many things we can do to help our furry friends through these difficult and stressful times so that both they, and us, feel more relaxed, settled, and at ease with the world.
Personal space is super important, to pets as much as to humans, and ensuring that your pet has a safe space they can escape to when the world gets a bit much is really important for their mental health and survival.
Crate training can be a great option in this case as it ensures they are always prepared for transport or travel and gives them a private space they can retreat to whenever they need.
Having their own comfortable bed somewhere, whether inside or outside, is just as important to providing comfort and a sense of security for them as your bed is to you.
Making sure that their bed is clean and fresh, well protected from the elements, free from parasites and fleas, and is comfortable, ensures that they have a safe space that they know is available to them whenever they need.
This can be especially helpful if your pet experiences separation anxiety or finds social situations overwhelming, and having favourite blankets or soft toys with their familiar scent, or old clothes with yours, can provide a further sense of wellbeing in times of stress or anxiety.
One of the easiest ways to reduce stress in pets, especially dogs, is regular, daily exercise. Whether it be walking, playing in the park, swimming, running on the beach, or even chasing a ball or frisbee around the garden, regular exercise will not only reduce stress levels but will also contribute to a longer healthier life, which in turn will be far less stressful for all involved than having a sick, overweight or distressed and diseased pet.
Mental stimulation is just as important as regular exercise, especially for particular breeds of pets that are traditionally used to working, problem-solving and were bred for task oriented skills.
Let's face it, a bored pet (or human) is generally a mopey pet (or human).
Engaging in new training exercises, teaching new tricks, reinforcing old training exercises, puzzle toys that offer treats or rewards for accomplishing tasks, hiding treats to be sniffed out, using props or toys for playtime, offering new scratching posts, tunnels or climbing frames can all offer enhanced mental stimulation that keep your pet actively engaged, occupied and entertained.
Just be aware that most toys, puzzles and treats should only be used under supervision.
Do not leave your pet alone with anything that could become a choking or obstruction hazard, including rope toys.
A healthy diet and lifestyle can have knock on effects far beyond just the prevention of disease, just as a poor diet can affect so much more than just physical condition.
Did you know that poor nutritional status and a bad diet can actually CREATE stress in the body as it struggles to keep up with the demands of life, the ongoing repair of cells and protection from illness and disease?
A good diet can literally prevent you from stress as well as sickness.
The nutrients that our pets absorb from the foods they eat are required for physical functioning as well as mental and emotional wellbeing. Ensuring a good intake of fresh, living, vibrant and colourful foods will help to support a fresh, living, vibrant and colourful outlook on life too!
For a nutritional boost to support the nervous system check out Probiotics For Pets
When we inhale essential oils the scent travels through the nose and a variety of receptor sites to our brain. One of these major sites is the limbic system which is often referred to as our emotional brain. The limbic system is directly connected to parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and hormone balance. So it stands to reason that the use of appropriately chosen essential oils can have a calming and relaxing effect on both our bodies and minds.
When using essential oils with pets it is important to choose oils that are safe and non-toxic, and those that are 100% pure, being wholly extracted from real plants without the use of, or contamination by, adulterants, chemical solvents, synthetic chemicals, perfumes or oils. These are NOT safe for use, and DO NOT confer health benefits in the same way that natural plant extracts do. The $2 bottle at the discount store might smell nice but I can pretty much guarantee that it's useless and potentially dangerous to use.
For a safe, convenient, and effective option check out our Calm Your Farm spray.
In herbal medicine 'nervines' are employed as important tools for addressing stress. A nervine as the name suggests is a plant remedy that has an effect on the nervous system, and primarily in cases of stress herbalists will use tonics that strengthen and restore balance to the nervous system, and relaxants that ease anxiety and tension.
You're probably already very familiar with some fabulous nervine herbs and may even have some growing in your garden!
Lavender, chamomile, hops, valerian, and passionflower are all examples of relaxant herbs; while oats, St Johns wort, verbena, and skullcap all have tonic actions on the nervous system.
It's important to make sure that the herbs you are using are free from contaminants, pesticides, herbicides, are not genetically modified, and are actually what you think they are (using the correct plant is critical not only for effect but also for safety!)
Personally I highly recommend our Stress Less potion for herbal support for stress and tension. It is professionally formulated to be safe and effective with quality you can trust.
Flowers have been used in virtually all countries and cultures for healing for many thousands of years. Over 3,000 years ago Egyptians collected the dew from flowers to treat emotional problems, Australian Aborigines would eat or sit next to flowering trees to obtain the vibration of the plant, and more recently Dr Edward Bach (1886-1936), English doctor, surgeon, bacteriologist and pathologist, rediscovered the power of emotional healing through flowers eventually creating the well-known and much loved Rescue Remedy.
Flower essences work to balance more subtle energy fields of the body than just the physical structure in the way that herbs do. As a result flower essences are a wonderful support to the emotions, and correspondingly can help to shift physical problems associated with those emotions and the energy systems they influence. Pure magic!
For more information or to book a flower essence consultation in which a personalised blend is created for you or your pet individually please get in touch.
Ah, the power of touch! Who doesn't love a massage?!? The physical, mental and emotional benefits of massage cannot be understated, and this goes as much for your pet as it does for you!
Thankfully like humans, most pets LOVE gentle touch and massage and will relish the opportunity to snuggle up and relax.
Massage how been shown to reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, reduce stress hormones, induce relaxation, increase joint mobility and flexibility, improve skin tone, improve sleep and reduce anxiety and depression.
Giving your pet a massage can be as simple as softly following the curves of their body and limbs with long leisurely strokes, or gently feeling into the muscles of their arms and legs as you would a human and seeing how they respond. Many animals will even shift and move and present you with different areas that they want massaged. They can be very helpful in this respect, just don't be surprised if they follow you around for more!
Professional animal massage therapists (myotherapists or myofunctional therapists) can also be of assistance in cases of specific injury, recovery, chronic pain, and disease, or in instances when a more therapeutic outcome is required.
With so many options available I'm sure that there is something you can start doing right away that will help to ease stress and tension in your household today.
Remembering that our pets can also provide stunning insights into our own emotional states and patterns and that the support that they require of us may also be exactly what we need too.