Many everyday life events can stress even the most laid-back of pets. Events like thunderstorms, boarding, trips in the car, a visit to the vet, and, of course, Fourth of July fireworks. Even a house full of guests can be upsetting to pets.
What sends your dog or cat scooting under the couch, pacing, or trembling at your feet with fear?
For some pets, it doesn't take much to ignite their fear response. Storm-phobic dogs and cats can actually learn to read the signs of an approaching storm! All it takes is a drop in atmospheric pressure or the sound of wind and they start to panic.
Just the discomfort of a hot summer day is enough to stress out many dogs and cats. High temperatures – indoors or outside – can make them feel agitated and distressed.
Pet parents often ask me… What can I do to help calm my anxious pet during stressful times?
It's heartbreaking to watch your beloved pet suffer. It's only natural to want to do everything you can to help.
Storms… Trips… Fireworks… They're Perceived as REAL Threats to Your Pet
First off, understand that these stressful events are very real for your pet.
For many pets, these events unleash feelings of terror and fear. Dogs and cats have been known to break a window in an attempt to escape, tear drapes, and chew furniture in their panic.
They're not risks you want to ignore for the comfort and safety of your pet.
With dogs, genetics may play a role in storm phobia. Certain breeds tend to be more predisposed.
A survey found herding dogs like collies, German shepherds, beagles, and basset hounds were more likely to react to storms than other dogs.
Storm phobia is also common in sporting and working breeds, as well as rescued dogs.
Since cats relate to their surroundings through their senses of sound and smell, loud noises can be frightening to them. Cats can even be fearful of rain and instinctively seek a sheltered location such as under a bed for safety.
Every pet and response is different, so a "one-size-fits-all" approach doesn't work here. You may need to experiment with different options to find those that work best for your pet.
Do You Make These Mistakes That Can Make Your Pet MORE Fearful?
The first instinct for many caring pet owners is to try to calm and soothe their pets during stressful times.
However, depending upon your approach, these actions may actually reinforce fearful behaviors and instill more fear in your pet.
Take a close look at your own behavior and that of family members. Do you or others react fearfully to storms? Feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety in your household, even unrelated to the storm, can make your pet respond negatively.
Try to go about your normal routine and avoid paying special attention to your pet while she exhibits signs of fear during stressful events. Do your best to remain relaxed and upbeat. Resist the temptation to excessively pamper your pet during storms or fireworks as this can reward – and reinforce – the unwanted behavior.
Above all, do not scold or punish your pet for a natural response to what's perceived as a real threat to them.
What can you do to comfort your cat or dog and help them adapt to stressful situations?
5 Ways to Comfort Your Pet During Stressful Times That Don't Reward Unwanted Behaviors
There are things you can do that won't reward unwanted behaviors. I must caution you: Start as early as possible, as phobias tend to worsen with each repeated incident.
- Give your pet a "safe" place to retreat.
Have a dark room, closet, or bathroom for your pet to escape to when a storm is approaching or during fireworks, especially when you're not home. Basements are ideal. To provide comfort for your dog, place a solid-sided crate in the room with the door open along with some food, water, treats, and favorite toys.
Help acclimate your pet to the room in advance by making it a place for fun activities, treats, and gentle, soothing massage. Keep the lights on during a storm to minimize the flash of lightning. Play calming music.
- Try distracting your pet.
Ask your dog to perform a familiar command and provide rewards for his cooperation. This technique distracts both of you – your dog from his fear of the storm, and you from the temptation to reinforce your pet's behavior.
Attempt to engage your pet in play or offer your dog a bone or healthy chew. My Healthy Pets Dental Bones are perfect for this.
- Consider getting your dog a "storm" comfort jacket or cape.
"Storm" jackets or shirts are special garments designed to hug your dog's body as if they're being swaddled.
This can be comforting for many dogs and help during any type of stress event.
A storm wrap or cape helps shield your dog from static electricity that can build up during storms. Electrical shocks from storms only add more discomfort for an already stressed animal.
- Supplements and remedies.
Your holistic vet may have suggestions about homeopathic and other remedies that may provide additional comfort for your pet.
Here's what I recommend to the pet parents in my practice…
Zen Pet: Could This Help YOUR Pet Feel More Comfortable During Occasional Stressful Times?
I have used each of the ingredients in Zen Pet for years but there was not a product that combined all my favorite calming agents, so I created this custom blend myself.
Most of these have been tested in animals, including rats. Based on these studies, I feel very comfortable about their use and safety with most cats and dogs.
I believe Zen Pet may be useful for these and other occasional stressful situations:
- Hot weather
- Veterinary visits
- Grooming appointments
- Introducing a new pet into the household
- Occasional, stress-related chewing, scratching, and pacing
Please note… Zen Pet is not intended to be a "personality changer in a jar."
It won't change unwanted behaviors. It won't calm your hyperactive puppy. Nor will it stop your dog from chasing your cat or correct other behavioral problems. Only consistent training and behavior modification can do that!
Let's take a peek at what's inside Zen Pet …
Holy basil, or the Tulsi herb, has been widely known in India for over 5,000 years.
Tulsi's leaves contain hundreds of compounds known as phytochemicals.
I especially recommend organically grown holy basil or tulsi, which I believe to be a high-quality herb.
And that's exactly what I've included in my Zen Pet formula – organic tulsi, straight from India.
Our certified organic tulsi producer stands a breed apart, too…
They've received rights to harvest the tulsi crops in central and northern India. And they are among the few herbal companies in India to receive organic and kosher certifications, as well as certifications in Safe Food Quality and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).
Working hard to educate growers and farmers in sustainable organic farming methods, our producer firmly believes in and insists on creating win-win scenarios for all parties involved.
A Simple Amino Acid Originally Isolated From Green Tea
First discovered in tea leaves in 1950, L-Theanine has been extensively studied for its effects in dogs and cats.
L-Theanine is absorbed through the membrane of the large intestine and is transported directly to the brain in animals where it stimulates mentally alert, yet calming alpha waves.
Although tea leaves are a natural source of the amino acid, L-Theanine only represents 1 to 2% of the dry weight of tea leaves. Not only is it costly and time-consuming to extract L-Theanine from tea leaves, you typically don't get a pure product.
A pure, clean product that's structurally and functionally identical to the L-Theanine found in tea leaves is now available through a proprietary process. This is the form of L-Theanine I chose for my Zen Pet.
Derived from another naturally occurring amino acid, it's standardized to 98% pure L-Theanine. It's completely caffeine-free, unlike regular green tea.
2 More Outstanding Adaptogen Herbs…
Adaptogens are agents that can help your pet's body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress.
Rhodiola rosea or "golden root" is a perennial plant and a true adaptogen.
The finest-quality rhodiola rosea, in my opinion, comes from Siberia. For Zen Pet, our supplier provides us with Certified Organic rhodiola that's harvested from the Atlai region of Siberia in Russia. It contains all six active ingredients: rosavin, rosaridin, rosin, salidroside, and tyrosol – without any fillers.
Ashwagandha or "Indian Ginseng" is a small evergreen perennial shrub found in India I included ashwagandha root powder in my Zen Pet formula that is grown in healthy, fertile soil, and no harmful chemicals are used during the growing, drying, or production phases.
You'll find 25 mg each of rhodiola and ashwagandha in Zen Pet.
One of the most popular relaxing herbs in the Western world, German Chamomile's origin dates back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks.
German chamomile is a plant with small daisy-like flowers. Often found growing wild, it's native to Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia.
The dried flowers contain many terpenoids and flavonoids, and are used to make tea, herbal powders, and extracts.
Although it's been used historically for humans, most of the studies on chamomile have been done on animals, especially surrounding its calming anti-anxiety qualities.
I chose to add this herb to my Zen Pet formula.
5-HTP, and NO Tryptophan in Zen Pet
In 1989, an unfortunate incident occurred that would forever change the face of tryptophan.
A Japanese shipment of tryptophan was found to contain contaminants, but only after it sickened numerous people.
Much like the massive melamine pet food recall of 2007, the cause wasn't necessarily inferior food – or tryptophan. It was the presence of contaminants in the food and tryptophan that caused pets and humans to suffer.
The issue with contamination of tryptophan has long been corrected, but, sadly, the ingredient still carries around its "tainted" reputation.
Practitioners value tryptophan for its serotonin-promoting benefits.
5-Hydroxytryptohan, or 5-HTP, is created by tryptophan, and 5-HTP, in turn, converts into serotonin, which promotes concentration and feelings of well-being. When levels of serotonin are too low, fear, aggression, and anxiety can emerge.
5-HTP is actually superior to tryptophan because it's better absorbed in the gut and it's able to pass through the blood-brain barrier. I prefer it to tryptophan, which is why I included it in Zen Pet.
GABA: Could a Single Neurotransmitter Help Promote Calm in Your Pet?
GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is one of the most important neurotransmitters in your pet's central nervous system.
Research has found that too little GABA in the nervous system can contribute to feelings of panic and anxiety.
Too much activity within the central nervous system – such as that caused by stressful events – can lead to anxious behaviors. GABA tells the brain to slow down.
Researchers have also found that GABA may act to inhibit certain brain areas, such as the amygdala, involved in fear learning.
Zen Pet contains 25 mg of GABA as part of its complete formula.
The Many (Essential) Roles of Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine HCL) is a water-soluble vitamin and a member of the B-vitamin family. It plays a number of important roles in your pet's body, especially in support of physical and mental health:
- Helps maintain a healthy nervous system
- Needed for the production of neurotransmitters – chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells
- Supports healthy mood and normal brain function
- Promotes the functions of enzymes, dopamine, and adrenaline
- Supports adrenal function
- Supports a healthy immune system
- Supports nerve and muscle cell health during periods of stress
- Aids in the conversion of tryptophan into vitamin B3 and serotonin
Cats have an even higher need for vitamin B6 than dogs because of their high protein intake.
I added 2 mg of vitamin B6 to my Zen Pet formula to help address this need.
How to Get the Most Out of Zen Pet
Zen Pet was designed to help ease the internal feelings of stress and anxiety that all cats and dogs experience from time to time.
I chose eight ingredients that, in my opinion, and from my extensive research and clinical experience, are safe and effective.
I'd like to pass along to you some general guidelines that I recommend to my pet-parents about using Zen Pet:
- Zen Pet is intended for occasional use before or during stressful events. Long-term continuous use may reduce potential benefits
- Feed to your pet a day in advance of expected stressful event, if possible. If not possible, you can still use Zen Pet at the beginning of stressful event
- As I mentioned earlier, Zen Pet is not a substitute for appropriate training
Please note: L-Theanine increases the potency of chemotherapeutic drugs. If your pet is receiving chemotherapy treatment, check with your vet before using. In addition, check with your vet if your pet is taking prescription antidepressants. Contains chicken flavor and beef fat, so avoid use if your pet is allergic to either.
Help Your Pet Meet the Everyday Stressors of Life – Show him the ‘Zen’ Way!
I know how trying it can be to support the pets we so adore during stressful times. There are moments when we may feel a little uncertain ourselves, and can't hide our own stress 100%.
Consider my Zen Pet an extra tool in your arsenal to help make your pet's life more comfortable – and you more confident of your ability to soothe your pet.
Whether its thunderstorms or that dreaded trip to the vet, Zen Pet may provide the added reassurance you need to make it less traumatic for your pet.
Why not try a jar today and give your pet the gift of a little Zen? It's a small price to pay for the potential of greater comfort for your pet during occasional stressful events.