Some of us can’t wait to unwind with a glass of wine after a long, stressful day. But I’ve found that a cuddle with my calming canine, Dexter, works even better—and science seems to back up my experience.
“Animals are very intuitive and make themselves available in times of stress,” says Dr. Maja Kovacevic of Healing Paws Veterinary Care. “Animals’ senses are much sharper than ours. Even though we may not always notice when we’re feeling stress and tension, our pets seem to.” She says they can smell pheromones released through our skin, “so they know exactly how we’re feeling and try to comfort us.”
How your pet calms you
Whether you own a goldfish or something more exotic, such as a bearded dragon, caring for a living thing sends your endorphins soaring.
“Seeing our pets thrive makes us happy and reduces our overall stress,” says Kovacevic, “which then physiologically reduces cortisol (the main stress hormone), improves heart function, keeps our blood pressure steady, and improves circulation.”
Dog owners get the extra benefit of stress-reducing exercise by walking or running with their pets every day. Fresh air, sustained cardiovascular exercise, and socializing with other pet owners all add up to a win-win for both you and your dog.
Cats have a reputation for being aloof, but they really do care when you’re stressed. Those that are typically distant may sit on your lap or follow you around. Dogs, on the other hand, become clingy and want to be petted, almost as if they’re trying to distract you from your thoughts.
How you can return the favor
We have to be vigilant that our stress levels aren’t having a negative effect on our four-legged friends.
“Since animals are so empathetic and highly attuned to their environments, it’s possible for them to misinterpret anxiety or tension in the air,” says Dr. Rehanni Khaseipoul from Vital Beings Holistic Veterinary Practice. “Some animals show guilt behavior in stressful situations, like when people are arguing. They’ll think the anger is directed at them. Some dogs will hide, cower, or pee indoors.”
Khaseipoul suggests trying to avoid exposing your pet to the raised voices and anger of arguments by leaving your pet in another room or outdoors for the duration whenever possible. “We see a lot of disease in animals that may be related to living in a world that contains a lot of stressful circumstances,” she says.
Turns out that cuddle at the end of a long day may do both you and your beloved pet a world of good.
It’s hard to enjoy cuddles from Fido if you’re worried about fleas.
For an easy, effective, and natural flea spray, cover 1 sprig of lavender, 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, and 1 sprig of sage with 4 cups of almost-boiling water. Let steep for 8 hours, then strain into a spray bottle. Store in the fridge. Spritz your pup daily, focusing on his belly, tail, legs, and ears.
The best diet for your doggo
For dogs, the healthiest diet is really a whole food diet, meaning it contains a source of protein and vegetables, plus vitamins and minerals.
Raw food can be good for younger, healthy dogs but not particularly for seniors. The diet must contain meat, vegetables, and a source of calcium to avoid early osteoporosis and damage to teeth. Purchase food from a reputable company, and if you’re feeding your pet a raw food diet in a home with young children, use caution to avoid the spread of bacteria.
Grain free is ideal for pets who suffer from arthritis, skin conditions, irritable bowel disease, or liver damage, all of which typically improve when grains are removed from the diet. Corn, wheat, barley, and rice are some common grains to avoid.
Vegetarian is an unconventional diet for dogs, but it’s preferred by some pet owners. Supplements providing enough protein, calcium, and vitamin D are crucial for maintaining your buddy’s good health.
Supplements for pets
Take care of your furry friends by pampering them with products suited to their particular health needs. Note that you should never give your pets supplements intended for humans. Always seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian.
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, helping to calm arthritic joints.
Green-lipped mussel extract can be useful for managing arthritis pain and inflammation and supporting a healthy coat and skin.
Glucosamine and chondroitin may help older medium- to large-breed dogs and those that suffer from hip dysplasia, spinal disk injuries, or joint stiffness.
Milk thistle helps to cleanse the liver from pesticide, chemical, and fertilizer exposure.
Coconut oil is great for skin issues and immune-challenged patients.