COVID and Stress in Our Animals: Part II
Feeling stressed? You’re not the only one. Your pets get anxious too, just ask Nervous Nelly.
My neighbor contacted me recently about their 13 year old Border Collie Nellie. She was in a panic and asked me to come by as soon as possible as Nellie was suffering. I have lived across the street from them and their many dogs for the past 30 years. I have even helped one dog that had a crisis when they were out of the country, so I responded rapidly thinking the worst. Nellie had been panting incessantly, especially at night. She had become terrified of the stairs and would not go down them unless she was carried.
Identifying The Problem
After talking to Shirley about Nellie I realized that Nellie was suffering from a severe case of anxiety on top of her other issues. Her nickname is “nervous Nellie” since the day she was rescued as an adult. Nellie was following Shirley throughout the house. She was also exhibiting signs of stress, which manifested in her panting loudly and incessantly. Normally her nervous tendencies were tolerable but clearly something was very wrong. A close family member had been in and out of the hospital three times for non COVID related issues. This was creating extreme stress for the entire family and Nellie was likely mirroring their stress.
Nobody wants to end up at the hospital in most circumstances and hospitalization during the time of COVID adds a whole new dimension of worry. The family could not visit the ill family member since the risk of contracting COVID was a major concern. The family member’s absence and illness precipitated more anxiety for the whole family and poor Nellie was beside herself.
Nellie would not come down the stairs when I knocked on my neighbor’s door. She answered, but not with her usual cheer. Clearly stressed, I indicated that Nellie was suffering and I was worried that she wanted to put her down. After evaluating her, I was concerned Nellie was exhibiting Laryngeal Paralysis, a neurological weakness that causes heavy/labored breathing. Stress would cause her to breath more rapidly and she would fall into a cycle of worsening stress and worsening breathing. But the real problem was that on top of Nellie’s laryngeal paralysis and her arthritis was a huge weight. She was so sensitive to the family that she was experiencing extreme anxiety. Shirley was convinced her suffering necessitated intervention, but I was surprised when she alluded to the fact that perhaps she should be put down.
She had been incessantly following Shirley throughout the house and her breathing was getting progressively more and more labored. I explained to her that senior dogs are more prone to separation stress and anxiety. A major change in routine like a family member’s illness and absence can trigger a nervous dog to exhibit these signs. Shirley who has written books about the bond she shares with her pets was so relieved that Nellie could be helped.
Shirley spending time in the garden with Nellie.
We talked about creating a routine for Nellie and adding a harness to help her safely navigate the stairs. We added a safe CBD option (with <0.3% THC/THC free) and Nellie slept much better that night. CBD would also help manage her osteoarthritis along with other appropriate prescriptions. Talk to your veterinarian about whether CBD is appropriate for your pet. Make sure you choose a CBD that has third party analysis of every batch for pesticides and THC. It can really help.
What Is “Observitis”?
Veterinary clinics are busier than ever right now. People are home more and seeing things that may have been there all along or never realized there was a problem. I call it “observitis”. When everyone is at home watching their pets more closely many normal behaviors are suddenly being perceived as abnormal. Pet owners may ask themselves how they were ignoring these issues for so long. Also, money previously spent on vacations and eating out is now being spent on home improvements and family pets are getting much needed attention. Suddenly, that halitosis caused by dental disease while Fluffy pants in our lap as we Zoom is now at the forefront. Scratching, biting, chewing, scooting, barking and behavior problems are no longer out of sight and out of mind. And then there’s the stress of routines that are out of sorts.
Anxiety On The Rise
One out of three Americans is suffering from depression and/or anxiety right now according to the National Center for Health Statistics. We are all stressed over the disruption COVID has caused in our livelihoods and ability to connect with our friends and faith communities. It is taking a toll on our emotional health and our pets are certainly a mirror of that. Addressing their stress is important, as is tending to our own. One of the best remedies to alleviate stress is to spend time with our pets. Just being with them, whether it be in nature or in our homes helps immensely. They are so happy just to be with us. We should practice being with them.
Take the time to thank and nurture your pet with a home cooked meal. Go to www.holisitcvetblend.com to download a free cookbook. Learn about how cooking real food for your pet will contribute to their good health. Watch as they anticipate and enjoy the gift of good health and vibrancy that comes from eating a healthy diet! Let’s get through this together!