Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The full article: Anxiety in Pets

In order to understand anxiety we first have to understand what fear is and the role it may play in anxiety. Fear is an instinctual feeling of apprehension resulting from a situation, person, or object that appears to present an external threat, whether real or perceived. The result is an autonomic nervous system response. This is your pet's normal “fight or flight” response.

Whereas, Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers that result in body reactions (also known as physiologic reactions) associated with fear. You can see these reactions in a frightened or anxious animal, they include: elimination (urination and/or passage of bowel movements), destruction (eating your shoes for instance), over-grooming in cats, and excessive barking or crying. These are only the visible signs, many of our pets, especially cats will hide their anxiety from us.

The most common form of anxiety in our pets is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can result in any of the physiological reactions listed above. Also, if your pet has separation anxiety they are more likely to have noise phobias, such as a fear of thunderstorm or the dreaded vacuum cleaner. Separation anxiety can be treated with acupuncture, herbs, medications and/or calming pheromones. In addition adjusting their environment and behavioral modification are useful.

In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), anxiety and phobias are considered disturbances of the Shen or emotions. The intellect is housed in the brain, but the emotions (the Shen) are controlled by the Heart. Thus the heart is not just the organ that pumps blood throughout the body, but the whole Chinese Heart System, which incorporates the heart, blood vessels and the entire nutritive system for maintaining the health of the body and is also responsible for helping to maintain a healthy emotional balance. If the Heart System is deficient, or if problems with other bodily systems negatively affect the Heart, then a Shen disturbance can result. The most common Shen disturbances we face in veterinary medicine in dogs are separation anxiety, noise phobias and aggression. In cats, we most commonly see litterbox issues.

Because the Shen is housed in the Heart, we can treat acupuncture points along the Heart meridian to directly influence the functioning of the Heart System to improve Shen disturbances. When the Shen disturbance is due to Heart deficiency, we can treat points to nourish and strengthen the Heart, which bolsters the Shen. In addition to acupuncture, we also use TCVM herbal preparations for long-term Heart and Shen support. These herbs can be used in conjunction with conventional Western drugs if needed.

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