No matter how quiet the holiday season is this year, animals can still become stressed due to changes in routine and diet. Here’s how to help your patients through the hustle and bustle with nutritional support.
The holiday season is stressful for everyone – four-legged family members included. We all know about the “quick-fixes”, but while remedies like flower essences and CBD certainly have their merits when it comes to combating stress and anxiety in animals, they aren’t the only option. A number of nutrients can also be offered to your patients as part of a long-term solution to these common mental health concerns.
There are multiple vitamins and minerals that have been shown to support patients with anxiety. These nutrients can be found in whole food-based supplements that are formulated for supporting adrenal function.
B Complex Vitamins can promote a calming effect by boosting mood and energy.1 This includes thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), , folic acid (B7), biotin (B9) and cobalamins (B12).
Vitamin C is required for healthy production of steroid hormones.
Magnesium is important for the transport of nervous impulses. It also is known for its ability to produce energy and for controlling the release of certain hormones in the body. A study done in 2017 showed that external stressors such as low temperatures and atmospheric pressure changes lowered the serum magnesium levels. They concluded that magnesium supplementation may be needed in winter to prevent magnesium deficiency.3 Magnesium deficiency is a potential contributing factor for anxiety.
Omega 3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, have been shown to influence a dog’s anxiety level. These fats have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties while also having modulating effects on neurotransmitters and neuroplasticity in the brain. Research involving 24 dogs, conducted by Ragen T.S. McGowan, Ph.D., of Nestlé Purina Research and colleagues, found increased intake of omega-3 fats had a calming effect on anxious dogs and led to improvements in behavior.2
Zinc can assist the body in adequately responding to stress.
Focus on the adrenal glands this holiday season
Supporting the adrenal glands is extremely beneficial for dogs and cats with anxiety whether it be during the holidays or year-round. These small glands, located just in front of the kidneys, are very important in the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and overall hormonal balance. They also interact with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. This is often referred to as the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal gland (HPA) axis.
The HPA axis is the central stress response system. It is responsible for the neuroendocrine adaptation component of the stress response. The hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormones (CRH) and when these hormones bind to CRH receptors on the anterior pituitary gland, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released. ACTH binds to receptors in the adrenal cortex and stimulates adrenal release of cortisol. Cortisol will be released for several hours in response to stressors. When certain concentration of cortisol in the blood is reached, this protection is ostensibly achieved. At this point, cortisol exerts a negative feedback to the hypothalamic release of CRH and the pituitary release of ACTH and systemic homeostasis returns. When an animal has repeated exposure to stress, the HPA axis has repeated activation and with time the appropriate level of sensitivity to the negative feedback of cortisol can be diminished.
The joint activities of these glands help to control the body’s reactions to stress whether it be physical or psychological. Support for the adrenals is also beneficial because they help to maintain homeostasis and hormonal balance in the body. There is thought that the adrenals in dogs and cats can fatigue just like they do in people. The more support we provide, the better these tiny powerhouses will function.
Don’t forget digestive support
When it comes to combatting stress in animals, the digestive system might not be high on your radar. But offering digestive-supporting supplements over the holiday season can be helpful not only to minimize anxiety but also because there are potential opportunities for them to get food they typically wouldn’t be eating. This could be snitching off the buffet of food or having guests slip them “treats”. Whole food-based supplements that provide tissues from the digestive organs will target support for those particular organs in the body. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that serves as fuel and primary energy source for the enterocytes. Stress on the intestinal cells (which could come from stress-related diarrhea), can increase the need for glutamine as the body replaces the cells lining the intestinal tract.
Even though many diets are complete and balanced according to AAFCO standards, there are times that additional support is needed beyond what is received in the diet. When assessing your patients’ nutrition plan leading up to the holidays, recommend whole food-based supplements that support the adrenals, promote healthy digestion, and offer an added boost of vital, stress-busting nutrients!
- Kennedy DO. B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68. doi:10.3390/nu8020068
- ACVB/AVSAB Veterinary Behavior Symposium, 2013;50-51.
- Izumi Ando, Kaoru Karasawa, Shinichi Yokota, Takao Shioya, Hiroshi Matsuda, Akane Tanaka Analysis of serum magnesium ions in dogs exposed to external stress: A pilot study, Open Vet J. 2017; 7(4): 367–374.