Emotional Stress in Livestock Animals
By Seema Bhattessa
Emotions of animals are part of their psychological state and can be compromised
as a result of many environmental factors such as intensive farming practices,
extreme weather conditions, and breeding.
Furthermore, emotional stress can compromise
their immune system leaving them vulnerable to illness and disease and prolong
any existing health problems they may already have.
Emotional stress can often be seen as behavioral, mood and temperament changes
such as restlessness, lethargy. Long term, stress can affect internal body functions,
and processes of individual animals, as well as compromising the immune system
it can adversely affect other body systems of the animal such as the nervous,
circulatory, digestive and hormonal.
The physical health of livestock animals is treated but the emotional needs
and psychological well- being of an animal are not always addressed and can
take its’ toll on livestock herds and individual animals and from an economic
viewpoint, stress in livestock yields inferior quality to the produce. t is important
to intervene and consider ways of managing their stress and
emotional health because it is not only in the interest of the animals themselves
, but we owe it to them as their guardians and custodians to improve the quality
of their life no matter how short it may be in the livestock farming process.
How we can help manage stress and improve emotional welfare of livestock?
Besides reBesides re-examining and improving farming practices such as diet, environmental
hygiene, non-confinement of animals and handling, there is another approach
that offers enormous potential to improve livestock stress and emotional welfare
as well as supporting and strengthening their immune system using innate animal
self-medication behavior also known as animal self-healing behavior or zoopharmacognos.
This is an evolutionary survival strategy of how all vertebrate animals restore
and manage their own health as they would in the wild. What is more, domestic
and livestock animals still retain this innate ability which is a safe practice
and withstood the test of time. facilitated approach to this method has been well demonstrated and proven
in domestic animals and shown to be effective for improving physical illness
and emotional stress such as trauma, fear phobia, anxiety.
This holistic approach to livestock health is more in keeping with nature
and gives back to the animal some control of its own health as a curative or
preventative approach. One example of this innate animal self-medication behavior
that livestock farmers are very familiar with is allowing access to
a salt lick in the field on a self-selection basis.
Innate self-medication and healing behavior is based on two key
First, all vertebrate animals have co-evolved with plants and other organic
components of nature's pharmacy and have enough knowledge of their own immune
responses and vulnerability to disease states and relate with their natural
environment in a variety of ways to maintain their life force and survival.
Secondly, they have evolved with highly developed sensory systems and interpret
their territory as sights, sounds, smells, tastes and emotion. This wealth of
accumulated innate knowledge and well developed sensory systems enables animals
to identify and utilize natural healing sources in their environment that are
effective in maintaining and restoring their own physical and psychological
It is well documented that free roaming animals self-medicate and heal using
secondary metabolites (the plants natural healing agents) from medicinal and
aromatic plants, some toxic, along with soils, clays and charcoal and will utilize
them in a variety of ways such as inhaling, consuming, as well as using external
remedies, such as back-rolling to expose themselves to a variety of treatments.
Supporting evidence for innate animal self-medication and healing
Plant secondary metabolites often self -selected by animals are known and used
in both human and animal pharmaceuticals for their health giving therapeutic
properties that include supporting the immune system, have antibacterial, antiviral
and anti-parasitic properties and help promote the body’s own healing mechanisms.
These secondary metabolites are widely used in ethno veterinary medicine which
also supports their use and effective health benefits.
Companion and equine animals that have been rescued or abused has benefited
enormously from the facilitated approach of this concept of innate animal self-healing
behaviour which not only serves as a natural tool for post-traumatic stress,
anxiety issues and related behaviours but their physical health too.
This natural method to animal health and welfare with rescued animals has
shown to be consistently effective and addressing the emotional support the
animal may be in need of and proven to help animals overcome their emotional
pain and experiences.
Health benefits in managing livestock welfare:
They say the best way to help an animal is to help the animal help itself. Due
to human intervention, livestock animals, unlike their wild counterparts do
not have access to nature’s pharmacy and denied the opportunity to have some
control of its own health and emotional welfare. Livestock farmers who add vitamin
and mineral supplements to animal feeds, and while this is done with careful
knowledge, it still may not be the natural choice of the animal.
Herds and individual animals that appear stressed or traumatised could benefit
from a facilitated approach of this innate self-healing behaviour , in particular,
natural remedies with known calming and stress relieving properties would help
them to remain calm in everyday situations that may otherwise cause them to
be stressed. What's more, secondary metabolites from medicinal and aromatic
plants can help enhance and support the animals’ natural healing processes and
immune systems, improving existing health and providing protection against disease.
his facilitated approach would allow livestock safe access to natural remedies
they innately recognize and an opportunity to utilize on a self-selection basis.
This approach is intended to broaden the idea of livestock health, rather than
replace traditional professional veterinary care.
There is no risk of the remedies contaminating produce with harmful residues
like some conventional antibiotics, and because the animals never become resistant
to the therapy it will continue to be effective from one generation to the next.
Reasons to consider innate animal self-healing :
- Valuable contribution towards improving livestock health and welfare management
- Assists livestock to cope with environmental stressors
- Environmental enrichment: Provide a calm balanced emotional state and environment
- Helps reduce the anxiety and stress of animals being intensively farmed
- Cost effective in the long term health of livestock
- Valuable contribution in the control and management of animal diseases transferable
to the human population
- Strengthens animals immune system reducing vulnerability to infection or advanced
- Reduce the need for antibiotics
- Improves quality of produce
Innate animal self-healing behaviour can be a turnkey tool for reducing the
effects of stress, trauma and anxieties in livestock at all stages from birth
to the end of life, as well as supporting and strengthening the immune system.em.
This long forgotten innate animal knowledge offers safe, natural solution to
our current livestock health and emotional welfare problems both now and in
Seema BhatSeema Bhattessa holds a B.S. Hons. Degree in Pharmacy from the University of London, a Diploma in Zoopharmacognosy , as well as other animal relevant qualifications. She currently resides in the greater London area, where she owns and operates Innate-Scents Animal Therapy and Zoo Pharma Consulting while independently researching the benefits of Zoopharmacognosy on sustaining
wildlife health and conservation, as well as connecting the research to other
Stressed Pets in the Recession: How we can Help Heal and Support Them?
by Seema Bhattessa
Animals are widely used in AAT (Animal Assisted Therapies) to help people
overcome past traumatic and stressful experiences, emotional, social and mental
impairment. Pets assist us in our healing process, support out emotional needs
and help us feel loved, relaxed and more peaceful. But what can we do to help
support their emotional state and overcoming their experiences of trauma, stress?
The recession has taken it's toll on our pets at an alarming rate. As some
pet owners are finding it increasingly difficult to feed and care for their
animals and are giving their pets to rescue and adoption centers which are already
struggling to cope with the ever increasing arrival of abandoned and unwanted
animals. However, some are not so fortunate and many pets are being simply abandoned
or dumped to face their own fate. Some pet owners are having to relocate or downsize their living accommodation
in an attempt to meet the ever increasing costs of living and are unable to
take their pets with them. Others are having to work for longer hours in the
financial struggle to keep their animals which can mean their pets are left
alone for longer periods of time.
Like us, animals respond to stressful and traumatic experiences in much the
same way as we do and they cannot verbalise their emotional pain in a way we
understand. Animals with “Post Traumatic Stress” (PTS), anxiety and emotional
pain can be the result from neglect, abuse, abandonment, grief and separation
from their animal companions and owners, often seen as behavioural changes.
Even changes in their daily routine, their home environment or family unit,
can cause a degree of distress and anxiety or when left alone or confined for
long periods of time. In the long term, an animals’ emotional trauma, stress
and anxiety can lead to a weakened immune system and illness.
What is more, animals are known to reflect the emotional state of their owners.
So, if you are feeling stressed or anxious there is a very good chance the animals
you live with will connect with your emotional energy and are likely to be feeling
and sharing this with you. Often, an animals’ stress, anxiety or traumatic emotional
state can be seen as behavioural changes such as depression, timidity, biting,
aggression or other destructive behaviours. For some animals the slightest change
in their environment such as loud noise can be enough to trigger a response
to their traumatic and stressful experience long after the event actually took
Such behavioural changes in traumatised and stressed pets can make it difficult
for animal rescue centres to rehabilitate and re-home them later and some pet
owners have difficulty coping with these behavioural changes on a daily basis
and sometimes the reason for giving them up for adoption.
What can be done to help support an animals’ emotional state and overcoming
their experiences of trauma or stress?
Animals can't communicate their needs with us in a way we understand but
they do however have an in-built innate knowledge of how to heal themselves,
they just need a little more help from us besides love and veterinary care.
Self-healing therapies such as “Olfaction” or smell therapy and Energy healing
using Reiki and Spiritual healing are just some of the ways we can offer them
the emotional support they may be in need of, to process their emotional trauma
and anxiety, move on and trust again.
“Olfaction” or Smell therapy (also known as zoopharmacognosy)
This method utilizes the physiological and emotional innate responses of
animals to improve both their physical and emotional welfare. The effects of
olfaction therapy on people has been widely researched and investigated by the
perfumery industry, as most of us are aware that different scents and odours
can influence one’s emotional response and behaviour. Olfaction to treat post
-traumatic stress is also well demonstrated by scientists in USA by recreating
the smell of Ground Zero as a desensitization therapy for the affected survivors.
The wild relatives of our pets have evolved with a powerful, innate healing
sense and highly developed senses, in particular sense of smell, which allows
them to utilize plants and other features of the natural world to maintain their
own health physical and psychological health. By enabling our pets to exercise
this innate skill away from the wild is a crucial step in healing their emotional
welfare, allowing them to self- select scents and natural wild remedies they
are familiar with. This approach helps them to connect with positive, healthy
feelings, give them back a measure of the confidence they may have lost, reduces
anxiety, offers them emotional support and assists with their emotional release
and helps correct any trauma related behaviour and responses.
Offering a bonding and more trusting experience between new and existing
owners and their animals is another benefit of this therapy as well as stimulating
the immune system, the most important tool an animal has in combating the onset
of illness.One example of a case study was that of a 6year old male Bull Terrier
dog with a fear phobia of noises.
He was rescued by his current owner at the age of about 18 months old. The
dog had a history of having had fireworks thrown at him one evening which left
him with a severe case of noise phobia that was so extreme that he would panic
at the slightest noises such as rain on a window and developed a fear of the
dark. This phobia almost threatened his own life when on one occasion; during
a thunderstorm he walked through a glass cabinet in an attempt to escape the
Using Olfaction self-healing therapy the dog self-selected remedies for five
days which included Sandalwood, Vetiver, Neroli and Lavender, which were indicated
for anxiety, obsessive worry, nurturing and comforting and offered a sense of
peace and calm. On day 5 the smoke alarm accidentally went off in the house
and the owner’s concern was the dog's reaction. Immediately, the owner walked
into the room where she had left him and was amazed to find him lying on his
bed, fully awake and did not even raise his head to acknowledge her presence.
The owner had never seen him react so calmly.
Natural Energy self-healing therapy that includes Reiki or Spiritual healing,
is a non-invasive ancient therapy that has stood the test of time and offers
another method of assisting animals in promoting self-healing on all levels,
bringing more balance and harmony to the animal and giving a sense of well –being,
calm and acceptance. Energy healing can address a variety of issues, it can
increase positive outcomes with a range of conditions on all levels, physical,
emotional and behavioural issues, helping them to release any anxieties, worry
or stress. Animals are very sensitive to energies and respond to energy healing
far more readily than we do.
Energy heaEnergy healing utilizes invisible energy systems that exist around and through
an animals’ body and include the auras, chakras and meridians which can affect
the emotional, physical and spiritual energy systems of the body. These energy
systems are very responsive to environmental changes and can affect animals’
emotional state (as well as physical). Universal energy is channelled through
the hands of the practitioner to balance and harmonise the animals’ energy field
and this channelled healing energy goes to wherever it is needed in the body
to assist the self-healing process of the body on all levels.
Pets of all species and rescued animals can benefit enormously from self-healing
therapies such as these which not only serve as a natural tool for post-traumatic
stress, anxiety issues and related behaviours but their physical health too.
My work and experience of working with rescued animals has been consistently
effective and because this approach to natural animal care addresses the emotional
support the animal may be in need of and proven to help animals overcome their
emotional pain and experiences and learning to trust and bond with people again.
Seema Bhattessa holds a B.S. Hons. Degree in Pharmacy from the University of London, a Diploma in Zoopharmacognosy , as well as other animal relevant qualifications. She currently resides in the greater London area, where she owns and operates Innate-Scents Animal Therapy and Zoo Pharma Consulting
while independently researching the benefits of Zoopharmacognosy on sustaining
wildlife health and conservation, as well as connecting the research to other
Zoopharmacognosy: Its’ Impact on Our Natural World, Agriculture, our Survival
and the Planet
by Seema Bhattessa
Terrestrial animals use their environment for nutrition such as fats, carbohydrates,
proteins (also known as primary metabolites), what is now emerging, gaining
more attention and importance, is how terrestrial vertebrates utilize their
environment as a source of medicine. In particular, plant secondary metabolites
(PSM’s) which are produced exclusively by plants to protection against pests,
as scent, colouring or attractants and as the plants’ own hormones. They have
no nutritional value and are only selected by animals in small quantities when
they are in need of them.
This innate behaviour of animal species is intentional for either their health
maintenance, health restoration in the presence of illness or disease or as
a preventative health strategy. Co-evolution of terrestrial vertebrates and
plants has enabled animals have accumulated enough innate knowledge of their
own immune responses and vulnerability to disease states and able to identify
remedial or medicinal plant sources within their natural environment. ild and free roaming animals that have been exposed and had access to nature’s
pharmacy, enables them to locate and utilize their environmental medicine as
a survival strategy. This innate animal behaviour is known as Zoopharmacognosy
and is a survival tool still practiced today by wildlife and free roaming species
from large animals to pollinating insects, birds and reptiles.
Livestock, domestic animals and even our pets that do not normally have access
to nature’s remedies, can still call on this innate sense, and will utilize
plant secondary metabolites when they are in need of them, as an innate response
to restore their own health in the presence of physical and illness, disease,
and emotional trauma. Animals use their highly developed senses to locate and
identify their remedies in their environment and will utilize them in a variety
of ways such as inhaling, consuming, in their dens and nest building, as well
as using external remedies, such as back-rolling to expose themselves to a variety
Principles of zoopharmacognosy are based on well-developed sensory systems,
in particular the olfactory (smell) system, because essential behaviours governing
daily life, such as mate-seeking, environmental mapping, food locating and communication,
are all dependent on olfactory cues. This, combined with an evolutionarily innate
response by the body to meet its own physiological needs, means animals have
selected diets to meet their nutritional needs and have found solutions to their
medicinal needs. This pattern of selection and problem solving is based on sensitivity
to the environment, and instincts about what is beneficial for survival.
When wild animals “self-medicate” with plants for example, they are detecting
aromas of in the smell of these sources but are also known to utilize soil minerals
and structural compounds naturally occurring in bark, grasses, minerals, blue green algae,
and other organic sources in their environment. PSM’s have a number of protective
functions on the body, they can bolster the efficacy of their body’s immune
system which helps reduce vulnerability to infection or advanced disease states,
offer protection from free radicals and effective against pathogenic bacteria,
viruses, fungus and parasites.
Interestingly, zoopharmacognosy and animals’ selections of botanical remedies
shares some common ground with indigenous medicinal plant knowledge as well
as some of our own traditional medicine still used today. Historically, farmers
used “nursery fields” grown primarily with a range of healing and aromatic plants
where sick livestock were allocated to restore their own health, guided only
by their innate sense and well developed olfactory (smell) system.
So what are the implications and benefits of zoopharmacognosy? The potential
and benefits of zoopharmacognosy are huge, particularly in sustaining and managing
wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems, livestock and animal health and can help
reduce the industrial impact on the environment, establishing a more synergistic
relationship between humans and nature. For animal survival, plant resources
containing PSM’s and other environmental remedies may be as important as food
resources and predator distribution. Dwindling environmental sources of PSM’s
could play a key role in contributing to the disappearance of some of our wildlife
and honeybees. It may also be an important factor in the increase of diseases
transferable between animals and people (Zoonotic diseases) that we have witnessed
in recent years and that have threatened and taken its toll on our own health,
businesses and economies, such as Avian flu, BSE in cattle and more recently
Understanding zoopharmacognosy behaviours can help define associations of
individual vertebrate animals with various plant species, enabling us to better
understand the unexpected and unusual migratory and breeding patterns, as well
as the survival rates of wildlife, captive zoo and re-released wild animals.
Indeed, analysis of such associations can help predict more suitable locations
for animals with essential botanical needs.
Zoopharmacognosy behavior can provide a more natural and cost-effective approach
to the health of our livestock and sustaining our wildlife in their natural
habitat. Providing nature’s wild remedies in the design of our agricultural
farms, gardens, captive animal enclosures and habitats such as zoos and wildlife
reserves, can benefit the health and well being of the individual animals themselves,
as would a variety of conservation efforts.
Associations between animal species, and environmental sources for health
maintenance, is more in design with nature and other characteristics of the
land for and offers huge potential in:
- preserving biological diversity and environmental systems
- can be a valuable contribution towards creating stable agricultural ecosystems
- can contribute as indicators for ecological networks beyond that of food webs
and environmental change assessments
- Offers another tool in restoring fragile or damaged habitats, helping the
wilderness re-establish itself
- In sustaining the long term health of our livestock, in disease prevention
by empowering the animals themselves to strengthen their immune systems and
resisting disease in the first instance, as well as reducing the severity of
symptoms should they occur
- As possible indicators for wildlife and environmental conservation and management.
Healing ofHealing of animals and the environment is not a goal but a process and would
benefit from zoopharmacognosy as part of that process. The consequent effect
on associated animal species remains unknown as long as the true relationship
with PSM’s and other wild remedies remains under examined. Article written by
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