Summer lovin' or summer anxiety?


Use this advice to help veterinary clients ease their pet's anxiety.

Clients might think summer is the best time of year for their pets—and it can be a blast. But the warm months can also be stressful.

While joining the family for a road trip may be fun for lots of pets, others shake, rattle and roll with fear on long car rides. Backyard barbecues may mean handouts—a party for many animals—but others hate all those strangers taking over the home and yard. And then there are the loud noises from fireworks and thunderstorms.

For panic-stricken pets, the following advice may not go far enough. Those terrified animals require more definitive help, perhaps from an appropriate pharmaceutical or a visit to a veterinary behaviorist or member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.

But what about mid- or lower-level anxiety? It is possible to nip nervousness in the bud before it worsens.

First, it’s important to always ask about behavior. During visits, always check in with clients about behavior the same way you ask about eating, exercise and symptoms of illness. Whenever clients note a behavioral change (and a medical explanation has been ruled out), it’s possible that anxiety may be responsible, at least in part. So, for that pet just beginning to demonstrate signs of stress when it thunders or when the mob we call family visits, there are products to consider to help resolve the frayed nerves before the problem worsens:

> Therapeutic diet. There are diets for cats and dogs on the market that include calming nutrients to help reduce anxiety.

> Pheromones. There are a number of products that use species-specific chemicals to reduce anxiety. Feliway is a copy of the pheromone that cats deposit to self-calm and mark as their own when they rub their cheek pads against objects or people. Adaptil is an analog of the calming pheromone found in the milk of mother dogs. Both products are available in several forms: plug-in diffusers, collars, sprays and wipes.

> Supplements. Anxitane, for instance, contains L-Theanine, also known as Suntheanine, an amino acid that acts neurologically to help keep dogs and cats calm, relaxed and (with luck) better behaved.

> Music. A variety of tunes specifically designed to calm pets are available. Here are three examples: Dog trainer Victoria Stilwell’s “Canine Noise Phobia” CD series; Joshua Leeds and Dr. Susan Wagner’s Through a Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health and Behavior of Your Canine Companion; and A Sound Beginning: Setting the Right Tone for Your Newly Adopted Dog.

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