In today’s society it is an accepted fact that stress is a big factor in ill health for humans but somehow our pets are slipping through the cracks where stress is concerned. It’s possible that people just don’t know how to determine the signs of stress and if they do, they don’t know what to do about it.
We need to learn to:
• identify stress
• put our pets at ease
• and most importantly how “whole” health plays the most vital role in all of it
The goal is to help our pets maintain a balance in their lives that will help them to also be healthy throughout their lives.
I must make a disclaimer here and state that I am not an animal behaviorist so my approach to all of this will be purely naturopathic in its approach and my own personal experiences with my own animals. Interacting with our pets, and especially giving them an outlet or “job” can go a long ways in relieving stress in our pets which in turn will make for a happier, healthier animal.
How do we identify stress?
Some physical signs of stress are probably pretty obvious:
Panting, excessive shedding, nervous energy – running around too much. Others may be more subtle such as growling (by the way growling is a good warning signal that shouldn’t be suppressed because without the growl there is no warning before a bite). Behavior problems can often also be attributed to stress. Our animals need an outlet.
A basic void in modern pet-human relationships is that we’ve gotten so far away from nature ourselves that we no longer recognize what is normal and what is abnormal in animals in general, never mind our pets. Many things that we’ve come to believe are normal are merely common – in ourselves AND our pets.
Because animals are very movement oriented, they pick up on even subtle changes in our own behavior. We are a very stressed society and in fact, most of us live in constant stress without realizing it. Stress was meant to be a survival mechanism but it is constantly in a state of “on” these days. Our stress does translate very obviously to our pets. They act and interact with us accordingly just as they would and do within their own societies. We may not realize that it is our own behavior and stress that is creating stress in our pets.
Animals do love a semblance of normalcy and routine. When that varies too much, they become stressed. In the wild that would translate to a need to survive. Whether is fight or flight an immediate “action” is needed.
When I am calm and relaxed so are my dogs. If I yell at them, that translates as excitement for them. The best dog trainers I’ve seen are those who have a calm demeanor full of assurance as you will see in the following video.
The dogs in this video have obviously been trained to focus on their owner, and it is obvious to me that he has taken the time to build a real relationship with each dog. They are confident because they have full trust in their owner’s ability as their pack leader. He has their trust. They are not stressed because of that. They also are allowed an incredible outlet through the fresh air, sunshine and EXERCISE they receive on a daily basis. Yes they are being trained for sledding, but these are very happy, unstressed dogs for all of the reasons I just mentioned.
For animals their immune response is weakened just as ours is when there is constant stress. It is our lack of understanding of their species needs – behavior is their first line of defense in the wild. Our domestic animals are really and always will be one step away from their “wildness” by nature in their needs and responses. It is up to us to learn about those natures and accommodate that as best as possible.
How do we put our pets at ease?
We better start doing our homework on the nature of the animal(s) we’ve chosen to have in our lives; learning about their wild cousins really does help to better understand our domestic pets. Australian veterinarian Dr. Tom Lonsdale, author of Raw Meaty Bones, always says that our cats are house lions and our dogs are house wolves.
Let’s honor their wild nature by looking to nature for the answers.
“There are three things which build and maintain civilization throughout time: pure air, pure water, and pure food. And as an eternal truth I say unto you, that there are three things which bring the end of civilization, even the mightiest that have ever been and shall ever be, from the beginningless beginning to the endless end of all time: impure air, impure water, and impure food.” ~Zenda Avesta, 3,000 years ago
In the wild, these factors are what determine stress in animals:
• Social Stress
Translated in domesticity:
1. Drought and famine come from improper diet and chemical-laden unnatural water (fluoridated/chlorinated). Denatured junk food. Toxic, impure water. A species appropriate raw diet and pure natural water are critical to calmer, more relaxed, healthier pets. Dogs and cats are carnivores. It is said that cats are obligate carnivores and dogs scavenger carnivores. But I pose this: both need raw meat, bones and organs to thrive. All animals are opportunistic and know how to seize the moment. Both species will and do scavenge. Both, therefore, in my eyes are obligated to eat raw meat, bones and organs in order to thrive.
2. Because of the lack of proper nourishment these days the internal organ systems are all stressed, especially the digestive system. When one body part is out of sync the entire body suffers. The good dog trainers I know have always had animals health assessed first to rule out a health problem before assuming it is purely behavioral.
A heart at peace gives life to the body… ~Proverbs 14:30, NIV Bible
When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need. ~Ayurvedic Proverb
This brings us to the naturopathic approach to reducing stress in our pets.
Following the Eight Laws of Health are key to a healthy, calm, well-adjusted pet. In nature a law cannot be broken without consequences. These are not theories but laws mandated in nature.
We use an acronym to help remember it: N.E.W. S.T.A.R.T. If one is broken, then all fall out of sync and are therefore also broken. All must be followed as a whole health approach.
• Nutrition – species appropriate and raw. This is not optional as nutrition is the cornerstone of health.
• Exercise – daily. Every living being needs movement. Our pets, both dogs and cats, need to MOVE. The lymph system is a critical part of the immune system. It does not have a pump to move it as the circulatory system does with the heart. The lymph system is the primary way the cells are fed, it is also what moves toxins out of the body, and it is also what creates the white blood cells needed as a critical line of defense in the innate immune system. Exercise also strengthens the muscles and bones. It is one of the best ways to release pent up energy and stress in our pets. By playing with and exercising with our pets we create lasting bonds and friendship. We and they will also reap the benefits of good health.
• Water – pure, unadulterated water sans chemicals such as fluoride, chlorine, etc. Good, pure, natural water can provide much needed minerals. In lieu of that, then reverse osmosis water and minerals added back is an example of an alternative.
• Sun/supplements – sun without sunscreen. Allowing animals access to sun is necessary. Vitamin D is manufactured through the skin from the sun in herbivores and omnivores. However, in the carnivore it is primarily manufactured through their raw meat, bone and organ diet! The sun still, however is needed due to the good vibrational frequencies it provides. When given proper shade, animals know how long to stay in the sun and when to go to the shade. Supplements, moderately administered also are needed due to depletion in the soils which translates to depletion in everything – plants, herbivores, omnivores and at the top of the food chain the carnivores. If you want to know the supplements I use just go to this page: https://www.aspenbloompetcare.com/natural-pet-support/
• Temperance – an old-fashioned word for moderation. All of the laws of health must be observed in moderation.
• Air – fresh, pure air daily. Animals were always meant to be outdoors just as we were. My dogs are given free choice since I work from home. The time of year and also weather will determine how much they spend outdoors. I also make sure the indoor air is of good quality (often the home has the most toxic air of all pollution – just do an internet search on “toxic indoor air pollution“). We use a good quality air purifier that also negatively ionizes the air. Additionally I also use Young Living Essential Oils in diffusers in my home. We don’t use any pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers in our yards or home. We also don’t use any toxic cleaning or personal care products in our home, and that includes NO air fresheners. Only the goodness of the Young Living oils!
• Rest – not just sleep but deep rest. That can’t happen with a constant influx of noise and light. A darkened room with no light coming from digital clocks, phones, and any other digital/mobile device. This constant stream of sound is bad for us and it is even worse for animals. They need a place to get away from all the noise and sounds of human contrivances.
• Trust – First it means that we are to trust or have faith in the previous seven laws – nutrition, exercise, pure water, sunshine, temperance, fresh air, and rest – as being the true path to health, longevity and quality of life. Secondly it means to trust or have faith in the principles of naturopathy which are founded upon these laws of nature and health. To believe that these natural laws truly are laws and will always work. Trusting in the laws of health to the point of not becoming fearful when the body begins to detoxify or it appears to be taking longer to heal and then running back to conventional medicine. In reality, conventional medicine merely masks symptoms and never does allow healing or health to occur. And lastly, trust is building an honest relationship with the animals in our care rather than just making them do what we want; allowing for true companionship based upon mutual trust.
Also remember that animals have must more intensified sense of smell over ours. Chemicals in the way of cleaning products, personal products, pesticides, etc. can greatly stress and affect the behavior and health of our pets. There are an abundance of eco-friendly, natural products to be used in lieu of all these toxic, chemical products. Our own health will greatly benefit by forgoing these in exchange for natural, healthy alternatives.
Additionally there are natural remedies that can assist
There are many resources online for these. I prefer to use Young Living Essential Oils because of the quality and therapeutic value of these essential oils. I feel they are the safest ones to use with animals. I also prefer to use the Bach Flower Remedies when using flower essences although now there are many flower essences that have been created and designed specifically for animals.
The biggest challenge I have faced with stress in animals is their humans overcoming their own accepted beliefs.
One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it’s expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
One of the most dangerous things a man can do is to go to people and tell them that all their accepted ideas are wrong. ~Dr. William Barclay
Veterinarian ethologist Dr. Myrna Milani did a couple of excellent podcasts about this subject:
Human-K9 Communciation Breakdowns: “For the gazillioneth time, permit me to note that I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing clients and patients anyone in my line of work could hope for. Because of this, I feel it keenly when owner and animal alike succumb to the negative effects of questionable beliefs, often those imposed on them by someone else. This in turn puts a negative self-fulfilling prophecy into motion that undermines the dog’s behavior and relationship with the owner. For me, that’s especially sad because it’s so avoidable. And worth meandering about…”
Making Sense of Scents.
She states, “How others perceive reality, regardless of species, has always been a subject that fascinates me. Equally fascinating, if frustrating, is the negative effect our society’s aversion to all but a relatively small collection of natural scents has on our relationship with animals. While most of us are willing to admit that certain flowers or their seeds (in the form of spices) possess scents that we enjoy, few if any animal scents fall into that category. When we speak of scents related to hormones or pheromones, those more often than not rate an even more negative response…which is too bad given that such scents form the backbone of animal communication.”
She points out how we have eliminated how they communicate with each other – through pheromones! And with our sterile home environments their own strong sense of smell is being greatly effected. We need to consider how we can bring back some of those natural environments for them and see if it doesn’t bring back some sense of calm and nature to our own lives.
Spending real quality time with our animals as the companions we claim they are is the primary key to a calmer, more adjusted, less-stressed pet.
• Sound Therapy – “Through a Dog’s Ear” by veterinarian Dr. Susan Wagner and Joshua Leeds, renowned authority on psychoacoustics
• Book by Sumner Davenport “Stress Out for Cats, Dogs and Their People” – I have a chapter in this book featuring my former dog, Shadrach the Neo Mastiff, the dog that began my journey in earnest into natural health!
Here is the podcast to go with this blog post: