Just like us, dogs can also suffer from stress, especially those who are in a rescue situation. I have heard of a dog becoming so stressed that he started to pull his own hair out with his teeth. Thankfully he found a forever home that gave him the help and love that he needed to unpack all his ‘baggage’.
And one of the things that assisted him on the road to both physical and mental recovery, was a selection of super-power foods, that helped manage the impact of stress on his body whilst also supporting his immune system. He could then regain his strength, and eventually his confidence. Some foods act as stimulants, while others have a calming influence. It’s quite amazing, by simply choosing certain foods and adding them to your dog’s diet, you can help alleviate both stress and anxiety.
A whole food diet that includes fresh blueberries can be a great way to provide your dog with mini-powerhouses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which can help protect them from the effects of stress. Simply add a few to your pets food before serving, or mix them with some goat milk yogurt for a special treat.
Leafy greens like kale, as well as spinach and silverbeet, are packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, b6, C and k, along with calcium, manganese, copper, potassium and iron. Kale is a great source of fiber, and is loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients and carotenoids. The beta carotene and lutein in kale help protect against oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation. Isothiocyanates made from the glucosinolates in kale play an important role in these preventive, stress-protective qualities.
Sweet Potatoes are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They are packed with antioxidants and are a terrific source of vitamin E. Sweet potatoes also contain many other important nutrients, including vitamins A, B6 and C, calcium, iron, folate, potassium, copper, thiamine and iron, plus they are rich in beta carotene.
Sweet Potatoes offer complex carbohydrates to help regulate blood sugar levels and even insulin resistance. The potassium in sweet potatoes helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, which is good news for maintaining healthy heart function and reducing anxiety. They are also a good source of dietary fiber, helping to support a healthy gastrointestinal system.
We have all heard about the ‘fight or flight’ response. Research has demonstrated that consuming Omega-3 fatty acids can help suppress the production of adrenaline that leads people and dogs to ‘fight or flight’. Too much adrenaline can cause anxiety and even aggression. That adrenaline rush can be slowed down simply by eating whole foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in wild salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna. Fatty fish have something else in common. They all contain vitamins A and D, which help battle stress. Salmon is extra special because it also contains L-tryptophan.
If your dog seems overly anxious in the evening hours, you may want to consider adding turkey to their diet. It’s a good source of L-tryptophan, an amino acid often associated with the regulation of sleep. Tryptophan also produces what researchers call ‘feel good chemicals’; it is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps both humans and dogs feel cool, calm and collected.
Did you know that kangaroo is a natural antidepressant? The B vitamins it contains can regulate stress levels. Kangaroo is rich in folic acid, and also contains pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, which is great for anxiety. This vitamin enables the production of anti-stress hormones in the adrenal gland that controls the release of cortisol. And increased presence of pantothenic acid reduces blood cortisol and dulls the body’s response to stress. Kangaroo liver is a great source of pantothenic acid.
Whole oats/whole brown rice
Fibre rich complex carbohydrates slow down the rate of digestion and enhance the absorption of tryptophan, which in turn is used to manufacture serotonin. Keeping serotonin production nice and steady helps prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. Serotonin is known as nature’s very own antidepressant. The Mayo Clinic and other universities have conducted studies using complex carbohydrates in place of medications containing serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. Whole oats are a great choice for dogs because they don’t overwhelm the blood with sugars, causing a surge in insulin. Whole brown rice is another great choice.
Quinoa is considered a pseudo-grain, because it is technically not a member of the Poaceae botanical family. Even so, most people consider it a true cereal grain simply because its nutritional value, preparation and use are very similar. Quinoa contains stress- reducing B vitamins, calcium, iron, fibre, potassium and zinc, and because it contains eight essential amino acids, it is considered a whole protein.
Almonds contain vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Magnesium supports healthy nervous system function and the production of ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain, helping the body become more resilient during bouts of stress because nerves and muscles are more relaxed. Instead of peanut butter, try some almond butter when stuffing a kong!
Pumpkin Seeds contain L-tryptophan as well as glutamate, which is required in the synthesis of GAGA, an anti-stress neurochemical. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin E, which protects tissue cells from free radicals, and they also contain selenium, an antioxidant that helps support the immune system. A deficiency in selenium has been linked to increased anxiety, depression and fatigue.
Hemp seed oil
Hemp is a super food that eases joint pain and inflammation, supports cardiovascular health, conditions the skin and coat, and acts as a digestive aid. Overall, it is a terrific way to support your dog’s immune system and alleviate stress. Hemp seed oil has been recognised as the most balanced vegetable oil in the marketplace. Not only does it contain Omega-3, it also contains Omega-6 and 9. Its fatty acid profile is closer to fish oil than any other vegetable oil. It is also a valuable source of gluten-free protein, contains vitamin C and E and chlorophyll, and has an excellent amino acid profile.
Unlike soy and other legumes, hemp seed oil does not contain trypsin inhibitors and oligosaccharides, the gas-producing substances found in many legumes, and it is never genetically modified.