Stress can push a body to the limit and beyond. Stress for an animal can be changes in your routine and theirs, meals not at regular time, change in their environment (i.e. decorations and furniture moved around), heaven forbid being taken to the kennel (even if they have fun there it is still a bit of stress), and yes; your stress can become their stress too. The signs of stress can be anxiety; tearing up the house, whining, crying, acting fearful, and barking. Also biting or growling where she normally would not, and hiding,

Here are some of the reasons a dog or cat may show the signs of being stressed:

  • 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. If they become imbalanced and cannot reset, for whatever the reason, abnormal behavior can be the result.
  • Nutritional deficiencies of calcium and magnesium, the calming minerals, is very common. The body needs calcium and magnesium in order for the nervous system to be calm and relaxed. Lacking these vital nutrients your pup or kitty cannot be calm. He will ramp up in a stressed situation escalating without the ability to slow down, until exhaustion hits.
  • Prior life experiences that have created a mental state where similar events trigger fear or stress.

Solutions to eliminating the signs of stress in your dog or cat first involve identifying the etiology. Finding the cause and changing that part of the animal’s lifestyle or health status may resolve the stress reactions. Don’t expect an overnight miracle. If the anxiety has been going on for a long time it may take down regulating, which could be weeks or months of gradual improvement.

Steps you can take to help reduce the stress and anxiety and eliminate it in the future:

  • For the short term, if your pet gets super stressed during the holidays, try to minimize those situations that set her off.
  • Run a diffuser with calming essential oils from doTerra®. There are ones specifically designed for the holidays that help the whole house smell good and all inhabitants ‘chill’ helping you to relax too.
  • It only takes the analysis of a sample of your dog’s or cat’s fur to find out if calcium and magnesium are low. The test is called “Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis”. You can find out more about this on my website: Once the mineral and toxic metal levels are known, a customized nutritional balancing program targeting specific minerals and vitamins for your pet can then be designed to alleviate the mechanisms setting off the signs of stress.
  • 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. Verify the safety and dosing for your pet before starting.
  • 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. 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 androsterone, which is an interomone.
  • Alpha- Stim® microcurrent therapy is a prescription device FDA cleared for stress related behavior. It has no systemic side effects and the treatments are cumulative and long lasting. A very low level microamperage waveform 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. Alpha-Stim can successfully treat a variety of human and animal stress conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. I am available to consult with you for your pet about the benefits and uses of Alpha-Stim.

Try some of these suggestions to help get your pet through the holiday season and into a calmer life in the new year. They have worked for others.

Ava Frick, DVM, CVC, FAIS