CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - We are a stressed out nation. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness humans face. So perhaps, it’s no surprise that our pets deal with anxiety too.
Fear of noise or separation, for example, can create stress for our furry friends. If left untreated, anxiety can lead to behavior problems and other issues.
“There’s not one thing I wouldn’t do for this dog,” says Angelo Francis, talking about his Old English Bulldog, Tyson.
Tyson is 9 years old and has more recently started showing signs of separation anxiety.
“When I would leave, he would just pace. He would stand by the door and wait for us to come home,” says Angelo. He says the symptoms got worse with age.
“Panting, pacing, scanning environment, shaking, trembling - they could be hiding, thinking something might be coming, ” Dr. Elizabeth Feltes describes the signs of anxiety in dogs.
Treating anxiety in animals is one of Dr. Feltes’ specialties. She started the Behavior Clinic in Olmsted Falls in 2007.
“It’s definitely a real problem. Animals experience emotions. There’s a lot of research in that.”
So how do you treat it? Does medicine like Prozac work?
“We’re all mammals and sometimes we’re able to use the same medications,” says Dr. Feltes. But she adds, “Not every drug is right for every individual, so that’s where the diagnosis is very important.”
Dr. Feltes says you have to figure out the anxiety triggers first and then find ways to counter condition them.
“You’re going to pair them with something amazing and try to take small bits.”
If a dog is scared of thunderstorms, for example, Dr. Feltes says, “Putting them in a quiet environment, like a basement, with white noise and counter condition there because you don’t hear it as loudly.”
Dr. Feltes says that kind of behavior therapy is crucial for the next step to work.
“Using supplements, using medication, using pheromones, using things like the thunder shirt, there’s a lot of different ways to reduce anxiety that don’t involve what we conventionally think of.”
Adrienne Brockway also has clients with anxiety. She’s been a Tellington TTouch practitioner for nine years.
“It’s a little bit different than massage, but it’s all about rebuilding the communication because usually when you see a stressed or anxious animal, the body and the brain are no longer communicating,” explains Brockway during a demonstration.
“If I were to do it on my hand, I’m just starting with my finger and pushing that skin around a circle and a quarter.”
Brockway says the movement stimulates cells, so they, once again, start talking to the brain.
A homeopathic remedy is what Angelo wanted for with Tyson. He now gives Tyson CBD oil for pets. Derived from hemp, it has the benefits of marijuana without the THC.
Tyson also goes to work with Angelo everyday, which eases his anxiety.
But it’s not a one-size-fits-all fix. If your furry family member is showing signs of anxiety, Dr. Feltes recommends seeing a vet as the best starting point.
“If you can learn what all of the body language is saying to you, you have a better chance of intervening,” says Dr. Feltes.