Better Nutrition

Calming pet anxiety

Holiday stress can affect dogs, cats, even birds— here’s natural help

- By Vera Tweed

ets like familiar people and routines, and the holiday season poses some challenges. “Change, noises, new situations— which all happen during holiday celebratio­ns— can be stressful to pets,” says Chicago- based Barbara Royal, DVM, a pioneer in integrativ­e medicine for animals, author of The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets, and president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Associatio­n.

“Stress not only makes them anxious, but it can also upset their tummies,” adds Royal. Just like people, pets are less stressed when they eat the right food. “Dogs and cats, as carnivores, should not have a high- carb diet, and they should not be eating corn, wheat, soy, or peanut butter,” says Royal. For special treats, choose something meaty without seasoning, and leave the pumpkin pie for people.

Exercise is another basic. “A tired animal will be more calm,” says Royal. She recommends especially long walks— in areas where there are lots of things to smell— and extra playtime for dogs. Exercise cats by playing games, such as wiggling your hand under a blanket, throwing treats down a long hallway, or using a toy that mimics things cats like to chase.

To calm pets during festivitie­s, Royal also off ers these tips:

PIf the usual dog treats don’t work, try these: Line a Kong ( a natural rubber, bouncy chew toy with room for treats inside) with butter, cream cheese, liverwurst, or meat baby food and freeze it. Or make ice cubes of chicken broth or meat baby food. For cats, smear a little butter, tuna juice, or meat baby food on their front paws. They’ll start licking it off and go into self- grooming mode, which is calming. Calm both dogs and cats with massage. Use light to moderate pressure and make small circles between the eyes, between the midline and the bony crest of the head, and around the ears. And massage the neck ( and chin, especially in cats). Anxious birds, rabbits, chinchilla­s, and guinea pigs calm down when their cages are moved to a quiet, dark area.

Calming Herbs

There are a variety of calming remedies specially formulated for dogs or cats that include ingredient­s such as chamomile and tryptophan. Very few human supplement­s are safe for pets, but you can use these three herbs if you are careful with dosing: valerian, kava, chamomile, and/ or passionfl ower. “These herbs in general are well tolerated and safe,” says Henry Pasternak, DVM, a Los Angeles- based integrativ­e vet and the

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