July 19, 2018
Health & Fitness
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Pets And Loud Noises — Not A Good Combination

Dr. Christine Calvert
View Bio
July 11, 2017

Is your dog scared of thunderstorms or loud noises? Does he or she hide or pant and pace at the sound of fireworks? Have you ever come home to find that your dog has chewed a hole in your wall?

Behavior problems are one of the most common causes for pets ending up in shelters or, even worse, being put to sleep. Storm and noise phobias originate from natural protective behaviors. The fear that animals normally experience when exposed to severe weather causes them to engage in the behavior of seeking shelter or a safe place. Loud noises may indicate danger, and being alert and avoiding sources of loud noises are also adaptive, protective behaviors.

You can try to relieve that fear by creating a safe place, such as an interior bedroom or bathroom, for your dog to go when he or she is frightened. You can also distract your pet with an activity that he or she normally loves doing. Some pets like a special treat or getting a massage. Another method is desensitizing your pet to the things that make him or her fearful. For example, play a recording with the sound of fireworks or thunder at a low volume that does not induce fear, and while the recording is playing, reward the dog. Increase the volume at each session over several weeks as your furry friend becomes tolerant of the sounds.

It is important that you do not reassure your dog when he or she is exhibiting fearful behavior. Instead, ignore the fearful behavior and offer praise when your dog is calm and quiet. Often, behaviors are an emotional response or panic with no rational thought, not intentional misbehavior. Therefore, it is important not to punish your dog for being afraid, as punishment only makes them more fearful. Avoid putting your dog in a crate during the noisy event as fear may lead to injury as he or she tries to escape. Never force your dog to experience a situation that is causing fear.

All dogs with thunderstorm phobia deserve to have the suffering relieved through the proactive use of medications. For pets that only react to thunderstorms or fireworks, we can prescribe “situational” medications that can be given around the time of the event or when an event is predicted to occur. For pets showing anxiety outside of specific weather events, daily medications are usually needed in addition to behavior-modification training. Specific anti-anxiety tools such as body wraps (thunder shirts), caps, goggles and headphones are available to help prevent intensity or the pet’s reaction.

In some cases of mild noise phobia or anxiety, pheromone therapy such as Adaptil plug-ins and collars may be supportive. A variety of anti-anxiety supplements like Solliquin from Nutramaxx can also be tried, but these should not be considered cornerstones of treatment for thunderstorm phobia. A new medication is specifically designed to treat noise phobias, including thunderstorm and fireworks phobias. This is applied as a gel to the pet’s gums to provide relief from anxiety and calming effects.

Symptoms of thunderstorm phobia can be significantly improved in most pets when treatment is immediate, proactive and multi-factorial. Furthermore, improvements can carry over into future thunderstorm seasons with certain protocols. Talk to your veterinarian if you think your pet is suffering from thunderstorm or noise phobia. Then you and your pet can get back to enjoying summertime.

Calvert Veterinary Center is a full-service animal hospital with expertise in many areas of pet health including behavior consultations. Call 410-360-PAWS or make an appointment on www.calvertvet.com to help your pet live a happier, fear-free lifestyle.

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