Sunday, 17 February 2013

Anxiety and Stress in Dogs – The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Treating, Preventing Dog Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety is a very serious and increasingly common issue in dogs – in-fact it has become an epidemic issue. 

Anxiety when left unaddressed or when addressed in the wrong way can quickly increase in intensity. Anxiety may take many forms, separation anxiety, fear of unfamiliar inanimate or animate objects, sounds, weather – i.e. thunderstorms, or insecurity leading to aggressive-reactive behaviour.

The most effective and beneficial approach to solving your dog’s anxiety issues is definitely NOT medicating your dog with anti-depressants such as Doggie-Prozac. Doggie-Prozac will not cure your dog – in addition it can also cause very serious health issues, you can read about that here. On the other hand, ensuring that your dog has a sufficient daily intake of quality Omega-3 fatty acids can have a beneficial effect on your dog’s ability to overcome anxiety.

In order to successfully remedy anxiety, each factor that contributes to the condition must be addressed. My approach is two-fold  - during the course of a session:
  • My primary focus in curing anxiety in a dog is to observe, analyze and improve the dog’s peoples’ habits and communication skills;
  • Then once habits and communication are addressed it is time to look at the dog’s overall diet.

Omega Fatty Acids are a good example of the gap between that actual ability of a kibble to meet a dog’s nutritional requirements vs. the dog owner’s expectations that he/she has purchased a nutritionally appropriate and complete product. Purchasing an expensive dog kibble (regardless if from a pet store or veterinary office) is not an assurance that your dog’s nutritional needs will be properly met.  

I have yet to find a dog kibble that comes close to providing the correct balance of Omega-3 fatty acids (Polyinsaturated Alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], Eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and Docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] vs. Omega 6-fatty acids. This means that you need to know how to make-up for the lack-of-balance of good fats in your dog’s diet.

EPA’s Importance In Proper Brain Function

A proper daily in-take of EPA can help your dog better handle stress…

  • Increases the fluidity of cell membranes;
  • Improves communication between brain cells;
  • As such daily ingestion of enough EPA:
    • Works to support proper functioning of the brain, and;
    • Enables calming.

Ingesting too much of the Omega-6 fatty acid Arachidonic Acid (AA) causes cellular inflammation.
  • The brain is very sensitive to cellular inflammation. 
  • Cellular inflammation creates a breakdown in the signalling between cells. 
  • When breakdown occurs the brain cannot function at optimal levels.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines are ineffective in treating brain cell inflammation as they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier that isolates the brain from undesirable substances in the blood-stream. 

When brain cells become inflamed the only substance that can protect these compromised cells is sufficient levels of Omega 3 fatty acids. 

When the level of Omega 3 fatty acids available to the brain are insufficient, neuro-inflammation is exacerbated and disruption of signalling between nerves becomes significant. 

The brain uses two Omega 3 fatty acids – DHA and EPA. While DHA is an important and necessary structural component of the brain, EPA is the primary anti-inflammatory Omega fatty acid for the brain. When used by the brain EPA has a short life-span. This means that the supply of EPA (via the blood stream to the brain) must be constantly present. For this reason it is very important to make sure that your dog is taking in a sufficient amount of EPA on a daily basis. 

Commercially manufactured dog kibble has relatively high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids and respectively low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • To make matters worse, when coupled with increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids refined carbohydrates (such as wheat flour, rice and sugar):
    • Increase insulin production;
    • Which in-turn increases the amount of AA (the Omega-6 fatty acid which causes inflammation);
    • At the same time decreased consumption of EPA:
      • Results in an increased AA to EPA ratio;
      • Which further exacerbates inflammation.

DHA’s Importance To Brain Function

When the brain is not receiving sufficient daily amounts of DHA, serotonin levels are decreased. Decreased levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety.

Other Impacts on Brain Function, of Insufficient Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Deficiency Can:
  • Compromise the blood-brain barrier. 
    • This barrier protects the brain from uninhibited flow of undesirable substances/matter into the brain;
  • Decrease normal blood flow to the brain;
  • Decrease phosphatidylserine (PS) levels; 
    • PS is a naturally occurring anti-depressant, and also helps improve the ability to concentrate.
In Conclusion…

If you are feeding your dog commercially manufactured dog kibble:
  • I encourage you to read the food manufactures' label,and;
  • Check the Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 fatty acid percentage, and; 
  • Then supplement your dog’s diet with Omega-3 fatty acids to suit. 
If you are feeding your dog a raw diet or homemade dog food you will still need to supplement your dog’s intake of Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • You can read more about Omega Fatty Acids for your dog:
  • All of the other ways Omega-3 fatty acids support your dog’s health;
  • Options for providing Omega-3 fatty acids in your dog’s daily diet;
    by clicking here.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this incredible site!
    WOW this is life changing!


Note -

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Nutraceuticals and Alternative Medicines:

When choosing to use any of the items or protocols in the article above, it is your responsibility to ensure safe use of the item/protocol. Food, herbs, nutraceuticals and alternative medicines all have drug interactions, most have health issue contradictions, some have side effects. Use of substances and protocols are your responsibility. Prior to use of any substance or protocol make sure you do your research - check for all cautions, contradictions,interactions, side effects. If in doubt do not use the substance or protocol. If the substance, or protocol is contradicted for your animal do not use. If your animal has an underlying condition you are not aware of substances may conflict with that condition.

2.0 The Real Meaning of Holistic…

Food, herbs, nutraceuticals and alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’. It is important to keep in mind that the supplement industry is just as unethical as BigPharma, the Food and Pet Food Industry, and unfortunately many veterinarians.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (i.e. an herb) you are using a natural substance, this is not synonymous with holistic.

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that - overall health, and wellbeing.

Please do not expect a natural substance to miraculously remedy a health or behavioral situation. A natural substance may be used to treat symptoms. However, if the factors causing the underlying issue are not properly identified, analyzed and addressed you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach that identifies root cause, seeks to remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues, and builds a complete, and detailed approach to immediate treatment, remedy, and maintenance of long-term health = holistic.

I offer extensive consultation services - Holistic Diet, Nutrition Wellness and Holistic Behavioral, for people that are serious about looking after their dogs and cats holistically. If you want to engage my services you can contact me via email or phone.

If you are looking for additional free advice, please refer back to the articles on my site, do not contact me via email or phone - personalized service is for my clients / patients only.

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Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

the Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats

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