STORM & FIREWORKS NOISE PHOBIAS
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Have you heard the latest?
Noise phobia may have a genetic origin, click here to read an enlightening article, PET PROJECT from the Journal called NATURE!
The warm weather is here! With this season come frequent thunderstorms and holidays with fireworks. For pets that suffer from Storm or Fireworks Noise Phobia this is a very stressful time. Many clients call us asking for help. Unfortunately many of these calls come on the night of a storm, or on Third of July, when a quick fix is needed. We can offer some help at the last minute, however preparing in advance for this high anxiety situation in has many advantages.
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We wish there was a simple pill that we could offer our frightened patients to quickly and completely resolve their fright. Sadly such a drug does not yet exist and the problem is much more complex. Anxiety and fear behaviors are very complicated in both people and animals. Fear helps animals survive, so fear is a very difficult emotion to extinguish. Phobias are falsely and irrationally magnified fears so they are not easily suppressed. We are learning now that part of the problem may also be genetic and therefore difficult to change.
TREATMENT OF NOISE PHOBIAS IS BEST ACHIEVED WITH A COMBINATION OF TREATMENTS including environmental management strategies and behavioral modifications. Medications can be utilized to humanely relieve anxiety while also assisting the phobic pet to learn new behaviors and responses. The more therapies we utilize to try to extingush the phobia , the better the results we will likely get.
For an example of how multiple therapies can be applied to help a noise phobic dog, read Liisa's Story of Success.
Helping Your Noise Phobic Pet a nice video overview from Sound Therapy for Pets by UK Veterinary Behaviorist, Jon Bowen
Noise Phobias: Stop Bemoaning Your Dog's Anxiety...Start Doing Something About It! a blog post from trainer Sara Reusche.
BELOW ARE SOME HANDOUTS with great tips from Veterinary Behavior Specialists and Professional DogTrainers.
Click here for a handout by Veterinary Behavior Specialist, Dr. Theresa DePorter on Fears, Anxieties and Phobias
Veterinary Partner also has Dr. DePorter's Thunderstorm Handout
Click here for Veterinary Behavior Specialist, Dr. Radosta's Fireworks Handout
Click here for APDT's Thunder and Noise Phobia Handout
Storm Phobias info from world renowned Behavior Specialist Karen Overall, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVB, CAAB
Click here for the UC Davis Vet School Behavior Handout on Fireworks Fear. It discusses the use of Desensitization CDs, you will find more info on this below as well
In the United Kingdom, fireworks are popular in November. There is a helpful website from the UK called Dogs and Fireworks.com. The website has a downloadable video along with instructions to use to teach you how to desensitize your dog to the sounds of fireworks. That website also provides this thorough handout titled Dogs & Fireworks Help Guide.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THE GOALS OF TREATMENT. In many cases, complete resolution of the anxiety and fear is impossible. Often the goal must be to diminish the fear enough so that the pet can rest quietly. We often have to accept that some degree of anxiety will still remain.
Before treatment starts, we must set realistic and obtainable goals for our pets and ourselves. For instance, a noise phobic dog might still pant; but instead of pacing, sit in one place. Or, the dog may pant, pace slightly, but then go and hide. In other words, you need to know what the behavior looks like NOW to know if it is improving. It is unlikely that all anxious behaviors will be resolved.
REMEMBER THE THREE "M"s or METHODS OF TREATMENT! Click Each Link below to get all the details!
1. Manage the Environment --Create a safe haven, close the drapes, dampen the sounds, try music & pheromone therapies
2. Modifiy Behavior--Relaxation Techniques and Counter Conditioning (CC) and Desensitization (DS)
3. Medications--Nutraceutical or Herbal Supplements and Prescription Behavior Modifying Drugs
It is also important to note that PUNISHMENT SHOULD NEVER BE INVOLVED and will make the situation worse!
OTHER MISCELLANEOUS OR SUPPORTIVE THERAPIES INCLUDE:
Body Wraps and Capes Body wraps can provide gentle pressure to help calm nervous pets. These wraps can be used for any situation that causes anxiety. Deer Run now carries the Thundershirt!
ADAPTIL or DAP Pheromone Therapy Pheromones are scents that communicate messages. Dog Appeasing Pheromone or DAP is a pheromone that mimics what a mother dog releases to her pups as they nurse to give them a sense of safety, security, and confidence. We can use this pheromone message to help noise phobias and other anxiety conditions in dogs. Adaptil products are available for sale at Deer Run Animal Hospital.
Herbal or Natural Therapies Since noise phobias are often difficult to treat, many things have been tried. Herbal or natural remedies are sought by many. Some of these may work and are worth a try. Remember the more things you do, the better results you will get. Try adding some natural therapies with environmental management and behavior modification techniques.
What About Static Electricity?
America's Veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, from TV's Good Morning America explains Thunderstorm Fears Aren't Always About Noise. Static electricity may be involved. Click to learn his suggestion to wipe your dog with a dryer sheet to remove static electricity, but don't try this if your pup is an excessive skin licker! You can also use a product such as Static Guard spray on a grooming brush to remove static from the haircoat.
The Storm Defender Cape was developed assuming that electrostatic charges in the air during storms cause dogs to become anxious. The lining of the cape was designed to eliminate these static charges. Studies with the cape show improvement in dogs wearing the cape, but also in dogs wearing a similar cape without the special anti-static lining. This may indicate that just wearing the covering may decrease anxiety.
THERE IS HOPE FOR THE STORM OR NOISE PHOBIC PET! Utilizing several different therapies will be much more effective than relying on a single treatment or a drug. Behavior modification should be started early on in the season, or ideally in the off season.
A veterinary exam and consultation should be scheduled if drug therapy is required. Periodic blood work is recommended for monitoring and before starting any medication for noise phobia.
Simple "tranquilzers" like Acepromazine are no longer recommended. Tranquilzers simply paralyze and immobilize the dog in its fear, they do nothing to relieve the anxiety and fear. Ask us about anti-anxiety medications which are a much better and more humane choice for treating noise phobias.
Drugs should ideally be started and tested for response prior to their use for noise events. Drugs can have positive effects if used appropriately and along with other therapies. Medications can on rare occasions have side effects and therefore require veterinary monitoring for safe and effective use.
There is no single simple answer to noise phobia, but there are many things that we can do to reduce the anxiety and distress that our pets are feeling. If your dog is suffering from noise phobia, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to tailor a treatment program for your pet.