By Dr. Maria Krenz, DVM – ZimmVet-763-856-4848
Storm season is here! While most of us, both human and canine, are enjoying the season, this is a time when some pets struggle greatly with behavioral issues. Fireworks and evening thunderstorms can wreak havoc on the nerves of a pet who suffers from noise phobias. Signs you may see at home include hiding, panting, pacing, drooling, and/or destructive behavior. With repeated exposure to the stimulus, many pets’ signs become worse over time. So what can we, as their caregivers, do to help them?
Anxiety and noise phobia can be managed with a combination of environmental changes, training, supplement or pheromone sprays and in cases where signs are more severe, oral medications.
The first step in these situations is always to strive for safety. Pets who panic and hide or run with loud noises should be kept indoors or in an enclosed area. Closing curtains and windows to reduce the noises and lights associated with the stimulus while providing distraction with a radio or TV as background noise also helps. The people in the home should remain calm, providing comfort with petting or quietly sitting with the pet. They should avoid giving verbal reinforcement and praise of unwanted behaviors, namely pacing and attention seeking behavior. Giving treats and practicing learned tricks during this time can also help to distract an anxious pet.
There are several alternatives to medications to help with anxiety. The Thundershirt is a stretchy body wrap designed to give constant, reassuring pressure and has been shown to reduce anxious behaviors in dogs. Pheromone products also can help as they naturally reduce anxiety. Adaptil products come as a spray, diffuser, or in the form of a collar. An oral natural product Solliquin, has natural ingredients that help calm the pet. Rescue Remedy is an herbal product that can help calm pets. ZimmVet has these products available for sale in clinic or on our on-line store at ZimmVet.com.
With most pets short term medications (given “as needed”) can be extremely helpful in reducing anxiety and improving comfort during stressful times. Medication such as Trazodone must be given 2-3 hrs in advance to help your pet but can be given on a daily basis if needed. For storms that come up quick when you don’t have hours’ notice Sileo is a great option that works within 30 minutes. Some pets have underlying anxiety that is best managed by daily therapy with additional special dosing during events like these. It is best to have an in depth discussion with your veterinarian about your pets anxiety triggers, the behaviors they are exhibiting, and the goals of therapy. With this information your veterinarian can help you modify the environment and choose the appropriate oral medication and dose for your pet.
Remember- safety first! If your pet is in danger of running away it is very important that he or she has proper identification tags and, ideally, a microchip implanted under the skin. This assures that even on a bad day, everyone comes home safe and sound.
Disclaimer: This written content is meant to be educational and is not medical advice. Always consult a veterinarian about medical advice for your pet.