Downeast Dog News
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Big Bang Boom- Noise Phobia in Dogs

By Christine D. Calder DVM DACVB | Jul 01, 2020

The 4th of July will soon be upon us which means fun parades, barbecues, and firework displays for the humans but terrifying events for dogs. According to recent study published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, fireworks are the most common noise event to cause a fearful response in dogs followed by thunder and gun shots. While not all dogs are afraid of fireworks, the bright lights, loud, and unexpected booms can result in a full blown “panic attack” for others. This fear response can look different for each dog ranging from mild panting and pacing to marathon running from room to room while barking loudly. Sometimes, the dog attempts to hide while others climb bookshelves, on to tables, and/or people. They may dig under beds, into furniture, and hide behind the toilet or in the bathtub often trembling. The more extreme cases may even chew or break out of windows, yards, gates, and solid doors. For these dogs, their sole intent is survival and immediate escape from the life-threatening noise.

What can you do to keep your pet safe?

It has been said that more dogs go missing on July 4th than any other time of the year. Before the holiday, make sure your pet has an up-to-date registered microchip, GPS collar, and flat buckle collar with its name, your name, and contact information clearly labeled.

To keep your pet feeling safe in the home:

• Establish a “safe haven” or secure location in the house for your pet to retreat from the lights, activity, and noises outside.

• Close the blinds and curtains. Blackout curtains are best if you have them available.

• Turn on some classical music to enhance a relaxing environment.

• Run a box fan, loud air conditioner, or noise machine to reduce outside noises.

• A Thundershirt® or Adaptil® collar and/or diffuser has been shown in some studies to reduce stress and anxiety although practical use results are mixed.

• Give your dog an extra special treat or food item while in his or her safe haven. Food dispensing and puzzle toys such as snuffle mats, LickiMat™ or LickiBowls™ are often well received by dogs and other animals. Freezing a spreadable, high value food item on the LickiMat ™ before the big day will streamline preparations and increase time spent eating and relaxing.

• Nose work games, a flirt pole, or fun game of tug-of-war can be a nice, fun distraction.

• A relaxing massage on the couch, next to you, may also help your dog feel less anxious, when needed.

What about medications?

Medications can help to reduce the fear response in some dogs, but remember, the earlier you give medications before the fearful event, the more effective they will be.

Sileo® (Dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel) is the first FDA approved medication for dogs suffering from noise aversion. This medication, prescribed by your veterinarian, is easy to apply on your dog’s gums and can be given as needed for each noise event. Sileo® reportedly calms your dog without sedation. Besides Sileo®, human medications (used off label) shown to be beneficial when treating noise phobias in dogs includes trazodone, benzodiazepines, gabapentin, and clonidine. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best option for your pet.