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November 23, 2014
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community living

Pets’ fear of loud noises

Contributed photo

By Sue Frisch

The severe thunderstorms of last week and the numerous fireworks displays over this past holiday weekend provided a terrifying scenario for many dogs. With summer in full swing, we can expect more T-storms in our future and I’m sure in some areas more fireworks displays or neighborhood firecrackers going off. If fear of loud noises affects your dog, there are some things you can try to help calm and soothe your dog.

First off, try to keep your dog as far away from the noise as possible. In the case of fireworks, and other manmade noises, keeping your dog in the house in a room with the windows and doors closed can help. Add some background noise such as playing the TV or music, turn on the A/C or other white noise to help temper the booms and bangs coming from outside. Thunder can be a little trickier to hide because many dogs are also reacting to the atmospheric pressure changes that are happening as storms approach.

You can also hold and comfort your dog as long as you do it calmly. The addition of gentle massage and/or TTouch® can be very helpful in calming your dog as long as you are calm yourself. If you are stressed and repeating, “It’s OK, it’s OK,” over and over you may be doing more harm than good.

I have also had much success with the Bach Flower remedies (www.bachflower.com/rescue-remedy-pet/), which are available at health food stores. Both Rescue Remedy and Mimulus have helped several of my thunder-phobic dogs in the past. The Bach Flower remedies are flower essences that can be given as necessary with no adverse affects or drug interactions. When combined with a Thundershirt (www.thundershirt.com/), the calming effect can be really great for your dog. Thundershirts are snug fitting “shirts” that have been proven to help many dogs be more relaxed in stressful situations. They are available at most pet supply stores or at the thundershirt website in sizes to fit all dogs.

In the most severe cases, short-acting anti-anxiety drugs prescribed by your veterinarian may be necessary in order to help your dog cope. If you have one of those dogs that pants and trembles uncontrollably, looking for an escape route, this may be the best route. While none of the available drugs is perfect for every dog, veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall prefers the anti-anxiety drugs and strongly cautions against the use of tranquilizers for sound-anxiety behaviors because they can in fact make the dog more fearful. If your veterinarian is unsure of which drug may help your dog, encourage her to do a phone consult with a veterinary behaviorist to help in the selection.

Having a noise phobic dog can be a struggle, especially during this time of year when storms are frequent and can come on suddenly or when the neighborhood is full of folks lighting firecrackers. Take the time to experiment with some of the above suggestions to see if any or a combination of the above will help. Your dog will surely thank you.