Alternative Treatment Options for Pets with Behavior Problems
The administration of prescription medications has become the hallmark of western medical therapy in both human and veterinary medicine. These drugs have alleviated illness and suffering, and allowed for a healthier quality of life for both human and veterinary patients. The use of anxiolytic (antianxiety) medications is universal in the treatment of general and specific anxiety disorders in our canine patients, with minimal side-effects and significant improvements in a dog’s anxiety level. Though beneficial in the treatment of these disorders, alternative therapies, sometimes termed “holistic” or “natural”, do exist for the pet owner that has reservations about the use of conventional drug therapy.
Nutritional supplements have increased in popularity of the years, particularly due to media exposure and a movement into an “all-natural” way of living. They have been touted as “safer” alternatives to the more common prescription treatment and do have their place in all facets of medicine. Behavioral medicine has also embraced the use of supplements, particularly in the area of canine anxiety and compulsive disorders. Three common supplements exist in the treatment of anxiety related behavior problems in dogs:
1) The neurologically active amino acid L-theanine (Anxitane®, Suntheanine®) has benefitted many dogs and cats with anxiety and fear-related disorders. Theanine is commonly found in green tea, which is highly promoted for its health benefits and calming effect. It comes as an oral pill or chewable that can be administered to your pet as an adjunctive treatment for most anxiety disorders. Olathe Animal Hospital carries the product Composure that contains L-theanine, along with vitamin B1 and colostrum.
2) Harmonease® is another supplement that is showing promise in the treatment of behavior problems. This product contains Phellodendron amurense and Magnolia officinalis, which have shown to reduce anxiety and assist in the treatment of stereotypic behaviors such as licking, spinning and cowering. Harmonease® is available in a palatable, chewable tablet and can help with such behaviors in as soon as 6 days. You can obtain this product directly at Olathe Animal Hospital.
3) A third supplement that may benefit anxiety disorders is the product Sin Susto™, which is translated as “without fear”. The supplement contains two botanicals, Souroubea sumpetala and Plantanus gilgil, that have anti-anxiety properties. This product is only approved for use in dogs.
A popular way to treat thunderstorm anxiety in dogs is the use of swaddling garments for pets, such as the Thundershirt. The idea behind this type of “clothing” is that by affecting certain pressure points/areas on the body, a calming state can be induced and help with the pet’s anxiety. From most veterinary behaviorists’ experience, this type of behavior aid CAN help, but rarely does decrease a pet’s anxiety.
Many treatment options exist for behavior-related problems in dogs outside of traditional pharmaceutical management. Most of these products are used adjunctively with medical therapy, but for the owner who prefers to not medicate his/her dog, they provide an alternative way to help ease the anxious pet. It is advisable to remind the pet owner that even though these alternatives seem more natural, they can still alter the pet’s brain chemistry like a conventional drug. A careful discussion with your veterinarian should preclude the use of such supplements.