Aggression, inappropriate urination, hyperactivity, separation anxiety, sibling rivalry, feather picking in birds, or excessive grooming/granuloma licking in dogs and cats are all issues that can be helped through acupuncture, herbal therapies, and other novel holistic approaches. These are often multi-tiered issues requiring patience from the humans to stay open-minded and awareness of how human behavior affects that of an animal.
When addressing pet behavioral issues, it is imperative to understand normal dog and cat behavior. This way, we can work with what comes naturally to help the pet make adjustments more easily.
Behavior modification usually means modifying the human behavior just as much as that of the pet. Understanding the human-animal bond and the dynamics that interplay is quite individualized. Both are easily altered by stress in the house from people and animals. But bringing awareness to our own actions and moods can in turn help our pets. Taking up qi gong meditation or yoga can greatly benefit not only ourselves but also the pets that live with us.
Dog rivalry, for example, requires that all humans in the house acknowledge the pecking order and constantly reinforce it through giving more attention and treats to the head dog. Of course, the humans in the house are really the “alphas,” but there is still an established hierarchy between dogs in the same household. Attempting to coddle dogs lower in the pecking order can confuse the natural order, leading to more fighting among dogs to reestablish the structure.
Cats in the same home might spit at each other or even spray or urinate in the house. Addressing this requires a multi-pronged approach. Inter-kitty spats are best left alone so the cats can work it out on their own. The more humans try to intervene out of concern, the more we delay the cats working out the issue themselves.
Psychoactive drugs such as Prozac/Reconcile, Buspar, Xanax, Clomipramine, or Amitryptyline can be helpful for some cats or dogs. Sometimes there are side effects, other times none at all. These drugs can also be entirely ineffective in some animals. But pill-popping itself is not an answer. In fact, it can make the animal feel out of sorts, resulting in further behavioral issues. The solution lies in behavior modification.
Here are some suggested actions you can take for behavioral modification: • Behavior Counseling • Training with positive reinforcement • Toe touching (for aggression with nail trimming) — try touching a pen cap to your pet's feet • Exercise (more than just being let out in the yard!) • Dietary changes and addressing nutrition • Chinese herbs • Flower essences • Qi gong, meditation, and yoga to decrease human stress in household • At-home pet acupressure massage • Grounding exercises with your pet
Darla Rewers is a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at Ancient Arts Holistic Veterinary.