Hyperactivity or hyperkinesis in dogs is a very common complaint. Many owners are quick to call their high-energy dog “hyperactive”, but according to many studies, this condition is very rare. In most cases, what may be deemed as hyperactivity by an owner is mostly likely normal behaviour for that particular breed or it is the result of conditioning by the owner, which is done by providing excessive attention to the enhanced behaviour  (ex. jumping around for treats or being very active when around a particular person that it likes). How can hyperactivity be diagnosed and are there foods which can help to calm your dog down?
CHARACTERISTICS OF A HYPERACTIVE DOG
The defining characteristics of a hyperactive dog are short attention span, inability to relax in familiar environments, and elevated baseline respiration and heart rates. All these features are not typically present in a normal overactive dog.
Hyperactive dogs can also display overbearing attention seeking behaviour, frenetic activity, and high impulsiveness. Hyperactivity is a canine form of Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD). How can you differentiate a normal, high energy dog from one who is hyperactive?
Hyperactive dogs will demonstrate very short attention spans and high degree of impulsiveness, are unable to focus on one task for long and are easily distracted. Normal high-energy dogs will possess the opposite characteristics and can be trained to control unwanted behaviour, whereas truly hyperactive dogs can’t focus even if they want to.
Hyperactive dogs can be especially sensitive to sudden environmental changes. They may overreact to the presence of a strange person, unable to adjust to the new stimulus of that change. They are likely to get bored very quickly, leading to destructive behaviour and being emotionally unstable . They can also become unmanageable if physically restrained and may display aggression if frustrated 
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A HYPERACTIVE DOG
- Non-stop movement and panting
- Eyes are unfocused
- Overly sensitive to a change in the environment, e.g. overly excited or aggressive towards a new dog or person
- Non-stop movement and panting
It is important to note that many dogs that are thought to display hyperactivity may just need proper training. If you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour, please see your vet for an examination.
To properly diagnose your dog as being hyperactive, your vet needs to rule out some unwanted behaviours that have similar signs and symptoms to that of hyperactivity.
- Phobias and anxiety disorders
- Cognitive decline
After ruling out these conditions, your vet may place your dog in a hospital setting where he/she can observe them. Heart and respiratory rates may be measured every 15 to 30 minutes. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, your vet may choose to change your dog’s exercise routine and diet.
FOODS TO HELP CALM YOUR DOG
Some dog foods are loaded with ingredients such as fillers, colouring, sugar and by-products, which can have an impact on your dog’s behaviour because they are known to disrupt hormones and normal bodily functions.
There are many ingredients that are known to have a calming influence. The following ingredients are research supported to help in reducing stress, promoting homeostasis and increasing the state of calmness.
Chamomile is one of the safest herbal remedies for a wide range of ailments. Chamomile delivers carminative, antispasmodic and mild sedative effects to the digestive system.
About ¼ of a teaspoon of dried chamomile per 30 pounds of the dog’s bodyweight per day.
It promotes a calming effect and other benefits including strengthening of the heart, bladder and uterine muscles and is also a natural de-wormer, reducing skin inflammation and promoting eye health .
KALE, CAULIFLOWER, BROCCOLI, BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND CABBAGE
Cruciferous plants such as cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, as well as other green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach contain high levels of glucosinolates, which play an important role in reducing oxidative stresses in the body. The beta carotenoids and luteins also help to reduce chronic inflammation . This helps for a calmer, more focused animal.
WHOLE BROWN RICE AND WHOLE OATS
Fibre rich complex carbohydrates such as whole oats and brown rice help to slow down the rate of digestion and increase the absorption of tryptophan, which is needed to create serotonin in the body. Serotonin is known as nature’s anti-depressant .
Quinoa contains stress-reducing iron, fibre, magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins and calcium. They also contain large amounts of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. These potent antioxidants have numerous health benefits, with quercetin known to have anti-histamine properties, which aid in reducing allergy symptoms.
It is also a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential Omega-3 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory benefits. Anti-inflammatory substances have been known to reduce risks of heart disease. Quinoa also contains quality fibre which can help with good gut health in dogs .
Sweet potatoes contain many important nutrients, including vitamin A, B6, and C, potassium and zinc. The potassium in sweet potatoes help to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, which in turn maintains a healthy heart and reduces anxiety. They are a good source of dietary fibre which also helps to increase the absorption of tryptophan into the bloodstream. They also support healthy gastrointestinal health .
SOME OTHER FOODS WITH CALMING AND ANTI-DEPRESSANT PROPERTIES INCLUDE BEEF, OILY FISH, BLUEBERRIES, PUMPKIN SEEDS AND HEMP SEED OIL .
HIGH-ENERGY IN DOGS CAN BE MISTAKEN FOR HYPERACTIVITY. A VETERINARY PROFESSIONAL IS THE BEST PERSON TO DIAGNOSE THIS CONDITION. THERE ARE SOME FOODS THAT MAY HELP TO CALM YOUR DOG DOWN, ALTHOUGH IT MAY THEY NOT WORK FOR ALL DOGS.
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