Pet Corner

Calm Your Pets — Naturally!

| January/February 2005

Like the people who keep them, pets exhibit a wide range of emotional excitability. Pets vary greatly in the amount of stress they feel when strangers visit, when they are taken for a car ride or when they’re confronted with firecrackers or the “boomers” from thunderstorms. Some pets snooze right through the most unsettling of noises or activities; others feel anxiety, stress and downright terror whenever they are exposed to any minor change in their ordinary routine. Fortunately, many herbs and other remedies can help these “serenity-challenged” pets get through their most disturbing days.

Note that I made a connection between the pet’s behavior and the pet’s people: Many of the most “hyper” dogs I’ve seen have come from households where the people are also hyperactive. When I recommend a remedy for the household pet, I commonly also recommend the same remedy for the two-legged members of the household.

Words that are commonly bandied about when discussing the hyperactive critter include “emotional stress,” “separation anxiety” and the terms used in human medicine, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, each of these terms is difficult to define and an accurate description of their symptoms is often extremely elusive … especially in pets.

What is Hyperactivity?

In human medicine, children who have difficulty concentrating, are not good at following directions, fidget constantly, find it hard to sit still and are easily bored are often termed hyperactive, or ADHD. In girls, the hyper- activity component is often lacking, giving rise to a purer attention deficit disorder, ADD.

Now, the big question is, do dogs and cats have a similar disorder? Well, much as in human medicine, it depends entirely on who you talk to. One prominent veterinary behavior expert says she has yet to diagnose a case of hyperactivity in dogs; another says he feels hyperactivity is the driving force behind many of the behavior problems we see in dogs.

Most cats could be termed hypoactive — curled up on the couch is their preferred modus operandi most of the time. So, although I’ve seen a very rare cat who might meet some of the criteria for hyperactivity for a few minutes a day, they are the exception. For that rare hyperactive cat, the same ideas and treatment methods apply.

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