Separation Anxiety in Animals

As a flower essence practitioner, I work with a lot of animals who suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs can show anxiety when their people leave the house or put them in another room. They may bark, whine, or even destroy items in their need to be back with their person. Horses can become excessively attached to their herdmates and be unwilling to leave them, or panic and run home when separated from companions. These are just some of the expressions of separation anxiety.

Behavioral Modification

Behavioral modification techniques can be very helpful in reducing or eliminating separation anxiety. Whenever I work with a client, I recommend implementing this approach in addition to using flower essences. There are many resources available from which to learn about behavioral modification techniques. To learn more about these techniques and dog behavior, I highly recommend the books of Patricia McConnell.

Why do animals develop separation anxiety?

There are a number of theories about how separation anxiety develops. I find that animals who have it often have had stressful early lives. The mother of the animal who develops separation anxiety may have been under stress through her gestation and birth (such as a homeless and starving stray or a puppy mill dog), or the animal may have been weaned too early or in a stressful manner. These early stresses have profound and long lasting effects on a developing animal.

Flower Essences for Separation Anxiety

Fortunately, flower essences can go a long way to helping animals recover from separation anxiety. When I work one on one with a client, I develop a formula based on the precise needs of the animal at the time. However, there are essences I can recommend that can help your animal. Learn more about how to give flower essences to your dog, cat, horse or bird here.

Northern Lady Slipper, Alaskan Essences

This essence is one of my favorites. I use it for many situations, but it is especially healing for early traumas. It is a gentle and enfolding essence that helps release the trauma related to stressful gestation or infancy.

Star of Bethlehem, Bach Flower Essences

The Star of Bethlehem flower essence is a primary choice for healing any kind of trauma. It soothes the spirit and helps the animal feel safe in their bodies and in their homes.

Grove Sandwort, Alaskan Essences

This essence is excellent in cases where the bonding process between mother and infant was disturbed and the infant did not receive the nurturing they needed. It helps to establish grounding and a connection to other forms of support to feel loved and cared for.

I am happy to offer consultation and custom essence formula creation over the telephone or Skype for you and your pet! Please get in touch and we can discuss your needs.

How to give flower essences to horses

Horses respond very well to flower essences.  Typically they do not mind the taste or smell of the alcohol used as a preservative in stock flower essences.  As such large animals, the small amount of alcohol in a dose of a few drops is generally regarded as insignificant.

Recommended ways to offer flower essences to your horse:

  • Put a few drops on a horse cookie, apple slice, or other favored treat
  • Put a few drops on a handful of grain and offer to the horse
  • Add drops to the water bucket
  • Add drops to a misting bottle filled with water and mist around the horse

I recommend giving flower essences separately from the excitement of mealtimes.  It is better for the horse to have a chance to quietly experience the essences and relax.

I am happy to offer consultation and custom essence formula creation over the telephone or Skype for you and your horse! Please get in touch and we can discuss your needs.

A few flower essence suggestions for horses:

Pineapple Weed flower essence (Alaskan Flower Essence Project) helps a horse connect to his feet and to the ground, aiding horses who trip or stumble frequently, as well as young horses who may be just growing into their bodies and having an awkward stage.

Wild Rose flower essence (Bach) helps the horse who has lost spirit and enthusiasm for life, whether through illness, moving away from his herd, or after a harsh living situation. It can help restart a sense of hope and a desire to go on.

Chamomile flower essence (Flower Essence Society) is very helpful for horses develop digestive troubles when nervous or upset. It helps calm and soothe, easing tension in the gut.

Star of Bethlehem flower essence (Bach) is a wonderfully soothing and grounding essence, beneficial after any kind of shock or stress. It gently helps a horse calm down after a fright, fall or stressful trailer incident.

Flower Essence Combinations For Horses

One of the best known flower essence combinations, Five Flower Formula, is very helpful in many types of situations. Five Flower Formula, also known as Rescue Remedy, was developed by Dr. Edward Bach, an English physician and homeopath, in the 1930’s. He created a new system of healing called flower essences that works primarily on mental and emotional conditions. He developed Five Flower Formula as an emergency remedy to treat stress and trauma. It is recommended for any crisis situation to help calm and ease confusion and panic. This formula, like all flower essences, can be used with complete safety and without any side effects by anyone, including animals.

How to give flower essences to your horse

Flower essences are easy to administer and impossible to overdose. In urgent situations, give 2 drops by mouth as often as needed. For instance, give every few minutes when you are waiting for the vet. For more stable or chronic situations, give 2 drops twice daily. Drops can be given on grain or treats, or placed in drinking water. You can also pet them into the coat or add drops to a misting bottle of water and spray around your horse. Of course, flower essences cannot substitute for appropriate veterinary care, but they can be a very supportive adjunct as there are no contraindications with any other types of treatments.

Flower Essence Combinations for your horse

Many other essences have been developed since Dr Bach’s system was created over 80 years ago. There are hundreds if not thousands of essences available and it can be quite challenging to decide which to choose for any given situation. Fortunately, several systems have developed essence combinations for specific circumstances, like Five Flower Formula, to make flower essences easier to use. The Alaskan Flower Essence Project makes essences in the pristine Alaskan wilderness, and several of the combinations in this line are particularly helpful for horses and their owners.

Animal Care was designed by a veterinarian specifically for animal rescue situations. It is helpful for horses that are being moved to new homes or those coming out of abusive or neglectful situations.

Guardian can be used to help a horse feel more secure when in busy or unfamiliar surroundings, such as shows, traveling or moving. It can help horses who are over-reactive to stimuli such as strange noises or new situations.

Travel Ease was created to address the stresses of air travel, but helps in any travel situation. It helps counter the stress of confinement and crowding and the enervating effects of noise and vibration.

Pregnancy Support is helpful for all phases of pregnancy – from creating a supportive environment for conception, to a healthy birth for mare and foal. It assists in the healthy bonding process and is highly recommended for first time mothers.

Easy Learning strengthens mental focus and helps a horse pay attention during a training session. It enhances the ability to process and learn new skills.

There are many other excellent combinations available, but the ones listed above can provide help in a broad range of situations. FIve Flower Formula is widely available as Rescue Remedy in many health food stores; other essence lines are less widely distributed but are readily available online.

Flower Essences for Horses

Horses naturally graze on a wide variety of plants, not simply grasses. They selectively eat herbs of many types, meeting nutritional needs or perhaps addressing imbalances. The use of herbs to treat physical conditions in domestic horses has become mainstream, and they naturally enjoy consuming this type of medicine. Flower Essences are less commonly used but, in my experience, horses respond very well to these remedies and show significant improvements in behavior and temperament.

Flower essences to help the aging horse

Tawni is a 23 year old Arabian mare who has Cushing’s disease, an autoimmune disorder which is common in aging horses. The disease manifests in a variety of problems, of which founder is one of the most severe. Founder causes a great deal of pain in Tawni’s hooves, and is truly debilitating. The pain has made it impossible for her to be ridden and has kept her from her favorite pastime, spending time on the trails with her person, Melanie. Tawni was having a hard time adjusting to the loss of her trail riding job so Melanie called me to see if I could help Tawni with Flower Essences. Melanie and Tawni have always had a close relationship fostered by the many hours spent together exploring nature.  Tawni took pride in her status as riding horse and the two made a beautiful pair. During our consultation, I recommended the essences Laceflower and Gold. The Laceflower essence helps her feel inner worth when she is no longer able to do the work she has always done. Gold is the perfect Gem Elixir counterpart to Laceflower, buoying self-esteem and providing a sense of inner value. Melanie reports that Tawni has regained her natural confidence and outgoing personality and is much more cheerful. This combination of essences would be helpful for any animal (or person!) who is no longer able to participate in work or activities due to age or injury. Life transitions can be damaging to self-esteem. Laceflower and Gold both help individuals find their identity beyond their job and realize that there is still life to be enjoyed while finding the inherent beauty and value in being themselves.

Flower essences for recovery from illness

Cheney, a 12 year old Paint gelding, had once had emergency surgery for intestinal impaction. There were numerous post-surgical complications and by the time he regained his physical health he had developed severe anxiety about being handled. He became very worried about routine things, like going on a walk or being in the arena. When he became nervous he would strike with his legs and try to run away – dangerous behavior for both him and his handler alike. Eileen had known him for 3 years and hoped Flower Essences could help him recover his old, fun-loving self.  She described him as always sort of clumsy and accident-prone, not completely aware of his body in space. Eileen noted that Cheney had always been very aware of how other horses are treated. She told me that he had a strong sense of what’s fair and would become upset when he saw other horses being mistreated. The first time I met Cheney and Eileen, I was moved by the commitment and determination Eileen showed for Cheney to get well. She had explored many avenues to help him and it was clearly a challenge to work with him because of his fears. After discussing his situation and history with Eileen, I created an essence formula for him. The essence Pineapple Weed helped him to get more in touch with his body and legs. When horses become afraid, they often lose awareness of their legs and hooves. This is valuable for a wild horse, enabling him to be able to react quickly and escape a predator, but it is dangerous for a handler who may inadvertently be stepped on or knocked down. Cheney, who already had a weak connection to his body, became even more out of touch when frightened. The Pineapple Weed helped ground him so he could feel safer in his body and environment. Tundra Twayblade, an essence used to release trauma from the body, was another important component to his formula. He had severe emotional “scar tissue” from the medical procedures that had saved his life. The Tundra Twayblade helped him release his fears about being handled and worked with. A few weeks after starting his Flower Essence formula the massage therapist who had been working with him for some time remarked how much more present he was and able to accept bodywork.

While nonviolent methods of training horses are becoming more popular, traditional methods relying on force, pain or dominance are still very much in use. An Australian veterinarian who specializes in equine behavior, Dr. Paul McGreevy, postulates that some horses are like “canaries in coal mines” and show the stresses that affect all the horses in an environment. Eileen feels Cheney may be one such horse. The Tundra Twayblade essence addressed the karmic issue of abuse, in this case, the abuse of horses as witnessed by Cheney. It has helped him release the trauma he stored in his own body and mind, and hopefully has also helped heal some small part of the karma of the abuse of horses by people. Cheney is now much improved, and has moved to a less stressful environment where he spends most of his time grazing with friends.

The system of Alaskan essences is deep with potential to help our animal companions, and they are thankful for all the help we can give them. Modern life for horses can be as stressful and unnatural as it is for humans and it is up to us, their caretakers, to assist them in any way we can. They will thank us for their improved health and quality of life, and in turn, enrich our lives immensely.

Article originally published in the Alaskan Flower Essence Project Newsletter, March 2010.

Learn more about how to give flower essences to your horse and flower essences for horses.