If a dog has severe or moderate problems with fear, there are several treatments to help lessen the anxiety including behavior modification and drug therapy (Sherman BL and DS Mills, 2008). Behavior modification, when done effectively, is very successful at alleviating considerable amounts of stress due to specific stimuli. Behavior modification plans for fearful dogs often consist of two techniques: counter conditioning and systematic desensitization (Overall KL, 2002). These techniques change behavior by changing the underlying emotional state of the dog, therefore relieving the stress and anxiety of the fear-based behavior. In severe cases, vets might also prescribe a sedative to help with specific situations like grooming or veterinary visits or general anxiety or an anti-anxiety medication to reduce fear enough to improve the patient’s quality of life and allow behavior modification a chance to work (Overall KL, 2002).
However, behavior modification techniques are often not easy for owners to execute correctly. Behavior modification tools require training skills and time, neither of which the average dog owner can often provide. In addition, many pet owners are very reluctant to medicate their pets for behavior problems.
As a result, many owners and trainers have turned to alternative therapies that promise great results for treating anxiety disorders, fearfulness and phobic behavior, one of which is pressure wraps. A pressure wrap uses an elastic fabric and velcro to create a tight-fitting garment that is worn during anxiety-causing events.
When fitted properly, the garment creates distributed pressure over the chest, sides, and back of the body that has a calming effect. The wrap stimulates the body’s receptors to help in transmitting different sensations to different parts of the brain. When the animal receives this new information, its awareness & focus can change, resulting in the animal “letting go” of the old sensation of fearfulness and modifying its behavior.
Being wrapped gives the dog a feeling of safety and comfort. Soon after putting on the wrap, the dog will settle down and relax. Many dogs will lie down and weather storms with little to no further symptoms of noise anxiety.
Several resources have researched the issue on how pressure soothes. While there is little specific research on pressure therapies in dogs, the effects of such therapies have been studied extensively in humans and other mammals. An example is the research on swaddling babies. In 2012, Meyer and Erler showed in a study with 85 healthy infants that swaddling significantly reduced the rate of spontaneous waking and the number of sleep stage changes. It promoted quiet sleep and it reduced the time spent awake. In general sleep efficiency increased significantly.
Already in 2007, van Sleuwen concluded that swaddled infants aroused less and slept longer. Preterm infants showed improved neuromuscular developments, less physiologic distress, better motor organization, and more self-regulatory abilities when they are swaddled. When compared with massage, excessively crying infants cried less when swaddled and in addition swaddling was soothing pain in infants (Sleuwen, van BE, et al., 2007).
Another study by Kihara and Nakamura (2013) with 20 Very Low Birth Weight Infants demonstrated that a prone position (face down) with nested and swaddled positioning support facilitated sleep and heart rate stability compared to prone positioning alone.
Besides the various swaddle researches with infants demonstrating the calming effect of swaddling, autism researcher and doctor of animal science Dr. Mary Temple Grandin, who was an autistic child herself, has conducted a range of studies on the effects of pressure therapies with people and animals. Inspired by how cattle calmed down while being gently squeezed in a chute she developed a “hug machine”. As stated by Temple Grandin (1992) after seeing cattle being put into a squeeze chute that held them still so they could get their shots. When she saw how calm the cattle got from the pressure on their bodies, she built her own squeeze machine, and it calmed her anxiety the same way. The hug machine helped maintain constant pressure and proved to be effective in soothing the anxiety of autistic people. Also with “normal” adults deep pressure applied to a wide area of the body, administered by the squeeze machine, had a relaxing effect.
Along the same lines a pressure wrap is a way to give the maintained pressure and contact that the dog craves for in times of anxiety.
Another source making use of the advantages of compression are TTouch practitioners. TTouch was developed by Linda Tellington-Jones to help train horses and relax the horse’s mind and body. It was eventually adapted for other animals too. It uses a system of specific touches, and stretches to relax an animal, and increase body awareness. The book “Getting in TTouch with Your Dog” by Linda Tellington-Jones (2001) illustrates many techniques for wrapping an ace bandage around a dog to enhance “a dog’s sense of his own body and makes him more confident in his movements and behavior.” One of the tools used to continue TTouch benefits for a longer time is a body wrap.
Summaries of important related scientific articles are listed below.
Nested and swaddled positioning support in the prone position facilitates sleep and heart rate stability in very low birth weight infants
Kihara H and T Nakamura. Research and Reports in Neonatology 2013: 3, 11–14.
The purpose of this study was to observe in very low birth weight infants (VLBWI) the effect of nested and swaddled positioning support in the prone position on heart rate, sleep distribution, and behavior state. A total of 20 VLBWI who were born at a gestational age of 26.5 ± 4 weeks with a birth weight of 709 ± 207 g were studied at an average gestational age of 37.4 ± 0.6 weeks (range 36–39) and a weight of 1590 ± 337 g (range 1192–2372). A prospective and crossover design was used. Infants were observed in the prone position with and without positioning support. Heart rate and electroencephalography were monitored during 3-hour interfeeding epochs. Heart rate and the coefficient of variation of heart rate in prone infants with positioning support were lower than in prone infants without positioning support. The percent of quiet sleep and behavior state 1 in prone infants with positioning support were higher compared to prone infants without positioning support. In conclusion, the present study demonstrated that a prone position with nested and swaddled positioning support might facilitate sleep and heart rate stability compared to prone positioning alone in VLBWI.
Meyer LE and T Erler. World Journal of Pediatrics. 2011, 7 (2):155-160.
BACKGROUND: This study was undertaken to compare the sleep profiles of healthy infants in swaddling and sleeping bag conditions.
METHODS: Polysomnographs of 85 healthy infants (40 in the study group, 45 in the control group) with a mean age of 7.5 weeks were recorded in the sleeping laboratory. A positive decision from the local Ethics Committee and the written consent of the parents were obtained for the study.
RESULTS: Swaddling significantly reduces the rate of spontaneous waking (events/h: 1.39 [0.85-2.77] vs. 2.81 [1.49-4.53], P=0.020) and the number of sleep stage changes (events/h: 3.82 [2.97-5.16] vs. 5.37 [3.58-6.67], P=0.015). Swaddling promotes quiet sleep (36.37% [29%-40.31%] vs. 30.2% [24.45%-36.78%], P=0.032), the time spent awake was decreased (8.98% [4.62%-14.25%] vs. 14.17% [9.2%-18.94%], P=0.001) and sleep efficiency was increased (91.02% [85.75%-95.38%] vs. 85.83% [81.06%-90.8%], P=0.001).
CONCLUSION: Swaddling promotes a more quiet sleep in infants.
Overall, KL. In: Horwitz, D.F., Mills, D.S., Heath, S. (Eds.), BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine, 2002, BSAVA, UK, pp. 164–172.
The importance of animal behavior and psychological well-being is increasingly being recognized in the veterinary profession. The 2nd edition of “BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine” is designed to be even more practical and user-friendly than the first. For a range of behavioral presentations, consideration is given to evaluation of the patient, including any possible underlying disease; evaluation of client attitudes, beliefs and behavior; risk evaluation; behavioral biology of the condition; acute management protocols; long-term treatment strategies; prognosis; follow-up; and preventive measures. A special chapter on shelter animals has been added, as this is an area where veterinary support is increasingly sought in both health and husbandry.
Sherman, BL and DS Mills. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 2008, Volume 38, Issue 5, pages 1081–1106.
Companion dogs commonly experience states of anxiety, fears, and phobias. Separation anxiety and noise aversions, as discussed in this article, are especially prevalent. Veterinarians are encouraged to recognize and treat such conditions on first presentation to address welfare issues and optimize successful management. New data suggest new treatment modalities, including behavioral management, pharmacotherapy, and species-specific pheromone use. Failure to treat can result in disruption of the human-animal bond and subsequent abandonment, relinquishment, or even euthanasia of the affected dog.
Sleuwen, van BE, AC Engelberts, MM Boere-Boonekamp, W Kuis, TWJ Schulpen and MP L’Hoir. Pediatrics, 2007, volume 120, Number 4. 2006-2083.
Swaddling was an almost universal child-care practice before the 18th century. It is still tradition in certain parts of the Middle East and is gaining popularity in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Netherlands to curb excessive crying. We have systematically reviewed all articles on swaddling to evaluate its possible benefits and disadvantages. In general, swaddled infants arouse less and sleep longer. Preterm infants have shown improved neuromuscular development, less physiologic distress, better motor organization, and more self-regulatory ability when they are swaddled. When compared with massage, excessively crying infants cried less when swaddled, and swaddling can soothe pain in infants. It is supportive in cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome and infants with neonatal cerebral lesions. It can be helpful in regulating temperature but can also cause hyperthermia when misapplied. Another possible adverse effect is an increased risk of the development of hip dysplasia, which is related to swaddling with the legs in extension and adduction. Although swaddling promotes the favorable supine position, the combination of swaddling with prone position increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, which makes it necessary to warn parents to stop swaddling if infants attempt to turn. There is some evidence that there is a higher risk of respiratory infections related to the tightness of swaddling. Furthermore, swaddling does not influence rickets onset or bone properties. Swaddling immediately after birth can cause delayed postnatal weight gain under certain conditions, but does not seem to influence breastfeeding parameters.
Tellington-Jones, L. Trafalgar Square Books, 2001, 112p.
Animal bodywork expert Linda Tellington-Jones’s developed the Tellington Touch Method (TTouch) throughout her 40-year career working with animals. In “Getting in Touch with Your Dog: A Gentle Approach to Influencing Behavior, Health, and Performance” she offers a way to effectively influence dogs’ behavior and character, as well as their ability to learn. The guide enforces mutual respect between dog and owner, stressing a relationship based on appreciation and friendship rather than dominance and submission. By using a specific combination of Touches (there are 22 altogether) and performing exercises, Tellington insists dogs’ performance, health and behavior can improve.
Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals
Temple Grandin, M. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 1992, Volume 2 (1): 63-72.
Many people with autistic disorder have problems with oversensitivity to both touch and sound. The author (an autistic person) developed a device that delivers deep touch pressure to help her learn to tolerate touching and to reduce anxiety and nervousness. The “squeeze machine” applies lateral, inwardly directed pressure to both lateral aspects of a person’s entire body, by compressing the user between two foam-padded panels. Clinical observations and several studies suggest that deep touch pressure is therapeutically beneficial for both children with autistic disorder and probably children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Only minor and occasional adverse effects have been noted. Data are reported that show a similar calming effect in nonreferred college students. A review of the animal literature reveals that animals have similar calming reactions, and also suggests possible additional physiological effects of deep touch pressure. At present, there are increasing anecdotal reports of the clinical value of the squeeze machine, including suggestions that it can be used to reduce required doses of psychostimulant medications. More clinical studies are needed to evaluate the potential role of this seemingly beneficial form of “physiological” stimulation.