This time of year can be terrifying for dogs and their owners. sOwners are distraught as their usually happy-go-lucky canine companions cower under desks and in closets. Stalwart furry friends try to climb into their owners’ laps at the first hint of a storm. Owners lose nights of sleep trying to comfort their dogs, sleeping with them on the floor. It’s a hard time for everyone!
Fortunately, there are some things that can help. Finding the right trick(s) to help your anxious dog, and using them consistently, will not only help this year, but will help him to learn that storms and the sounds of distant fireworks are not actually as dangerous as he thinks.
- Provide a quiet, dark place deep in your house where your dog can retreat when he is frightened. A dark closet with a blanket and a favorite toy may be all that some dogs need.
- Try not to coddle your frightened dog. It’s very natural for us to want to hold and comfort our pets when they are afraid, but excessive “reassurance” only programs frightened animals that their fearful behavior gets rewarded by their owners. Instead, try distracting your pet with a favorite game or toy in the early stages of anxiety, before panic sets in.
My own Coonhound was terrified of the “Thunder God”. She would run back and forth through our yard barking at the sky through the entire pre-storm, storm and after storm. She would break out of the yard to chase down the Thunder God if she could. She would exhaust herself, verging on heat stroke once! But, if I gave her a cream cheese filled Twist and Treat at the first sign of her compulsive anxiety behavior, she settled right down! She would spend 45 minutes working on her food toy, then sit contentedly in the family room throughout the rest of the storm! I wish I’d found that “magic solution” earlier in her life!! ~ Dr. Deb Bohnke
- Anxiety Wraps and Thundershirts™ are snug fitting coats that soothe many dogs through a swaddling effect. You may not be there to hug your anxious dog, but his coat can!
- Sileo® is a the only FDA approved medication for noise phobias in dogs. It was just released in May, 2016. It is a gel, delivered into a dog’s cheek pouch with a pre-measured pipette. It causes relaxation and drowsiness within about 30 minutes. The effects last several hours. It is intended as an “on demand” medication, being administered (preferably) prior to an anxiety-provoking event.
Prescription Anxiolytics like Sileo® are not the same as tranquilizers (the most common of which is Acepromazine). Anxiolyics are better! Anxiolytics help prevent the chemical cascade in the brain that leads to fear, helping dogs learn that the “scary” noise is not so scary. Tranquilizers do nothing to eliminate the fear. They just cause sleepiness, giving owners a false sense of comfort. While both types of medication may result in a pet that acts more relaxed, tranquilizers don’t help pets learn to cope with their anxiety. The phobia still gets worse over time.
Ask your vet about Sileo® or other oral ‘Anxiolytic” medications that can be prescribed. Not every medication works as well for every pet, so there may be a period of trial and error. Don’t use human medications without consulting your vet as dogs require different doses than people for safety and effectiveness. Inocrrect dosing of anxiety prevention medication can actually Increase anxiety in some pets, resulting a worse state of panic!
If your dog suffers from Thunderstorm Phobia or Fireworks Phobia, contact your vet now for help. Don’t wait for the storms to start. It makes a lot of sense to try an Anxiety Wrap or some medication before your pup goes into panic mode so you will now what will help when you need it!