THUNDER, LIGHTENING, AND FIREWORKS!
Summer is once again upon us!! With warm weather we have all kinds of fun things to do. There are things to do outside, traveling on vacation, holidays to celebrate and unfortunately bad weather in the form of thunderstorms. We all know of or have lived with dogs that become anxious or even terrified during many of these events. Car ride anxieties, firework fears, and thunderstorm phobias. All of these things can cause potentially dangerous responses in our canine family members who simply cannot rationalize that there is nothing to fear from any of this. These responses can range from simple hiding to destruction of property to running away.
WHAT IS NOISE PHOBIA?
We have all been able to recognize fear in ourselves and our pets. Fear is a normal response. It is retained in our ‘reptilian brain.’ It was created in order to help us avoid potentially dangerous situations, keep us out of trouble, and basically, keep us alive (just doesn’t explain the dinosaurs!)
A problem arises when that system is over-active or ‘up-regulated’ to a stimulus, such as a sound, sight, or event. Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, is a clinical instructor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University where she also studies behavior. She states that “Noise phobia is an extreme, persistent fear of auditory stimuli that is out of proportion to the real danger, if any, associated with the noise. There is no survival advantage conferred on an animal that panics in response to things that are not truly threatening or dangerous.”
So basically what this means is that the sound of thunder isn’t just a single ‘boom’ to your noise phobic dog. It’s a boom that signifies the end of the world is coming soon, and there’s no way to convince him or her otherwise until it’s over. That’s a pretty scary thing!!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
First of all, know you’re not alone in this! Concerns from pet parents involving noise anxiety and separation anxiety account for a large percentage of veterinary visits. Even more sobering, it is one of the top reasons animals are surrendered to shelters.
FIRST, KNOW THE SIGNS
Most of us know our pets very well! After we have known our pets long enough, we being to know the signs they exhibit when a thunderstorm is approaching. Starting treatment early and prior to any events can help reduce overall reactions and stress.
REALIZE IT WILL TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF TIME, A LITTLE BIT OF WORK, AND SOME ADJUSTMENTS:
Often, it is not a ‘one-step’ approach to this anxiety. This makes sense because of how deeply rooted the response can be. Here are some simple things you can try prior to or along with medications, depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation.
a.) There are natural anti-anxiety medications that can be used long-term or during the periods that we know there will be more anxiety, such as spring with thunderstorms, 4th of July fireworks, and New Year’s Eve. Solloquin and Composure are both recommended.
b.) ThunderShirt – You may read mixed reviews on this, which is true! The ThunderShirt can be the answer for some pets. However, the ThunderShirt is often an excellent addition to other types of treatment methods. Keep in mind that just because the ThunderShirt or these other medications don’t work like a ‘miracle cure,’ it does not mean that are ineffective. The idea is to reduce the doses of other drugs and medications, as well as reduce overall anxiety.
Acepromazine has previously been the ‘go-to’ medication for these phobias. The problem with this medication is how it works, which is important for us to understand. Ace does NOT dampen down the response center. It does not calm anxiety. Mostly it acts to slow the response system of the animal down. What this means is that your pet is still sitting there, feeling all of his/her anxiety, recognizing it’s there, but not being able to do anything about it. For that reason, some behaviorists are worried it may do more harm with the anxiety than good in the long-term, although it does make a difference in the signs they show.
We are excited to be able to offer a new product specifically formulated for this very problem. It is called Sileo and is the first and only FDA-approved treatment for canine noise aversion. It works by calming the dog, not sedating it, and this then allows your dog to continue to interact with and enjoy your family’s company, despite the triggers that would previously have made the dog miserable. It is very safe and has already proven effective in those we have tried on it. As with all medications, no matter what the species, some individuals won’t respond quite as well as others but with no side effects, it is worth considering. If you are interested in learning more about whether this might work for your canine best friend, please give us a call and we can talk about it. You can also look it up online at sileodogus.com.
As with all things, contact your local veterinarian first. Each patient is different, and all dogs may not respond the same. Realizing that all team members want to work together for the comfort of your baby will help greatly improve, no matter what ‘thunderstorms’ come your way!
Have a fantastic summer and enjoy life with your family, including the four legged members!
(Thank you to June Holden for your writing expertise and great help on this!)