July 4th, Independence Day, is a great time of celebration with family and friends. Our dogs, however, often suffer a week of torture, as they have noise phobia. Nearly a third of our dogs suffer from fear of loud noises. While healthy fear is a natural protective instinct, prolonged or extreme reaction to noises may develop into what is diagnosed as noise phobia.
Dogs may express fear in a number of ways. The most commons signs are:
• Whining and barking
• Fear aggression (biting when feeling like trapped or cornered)
A phobia is an intense and persistent fear that occurs when a dog is confronted with something that they may feel is threatening. The most common noise phobias for the dog are thunderstorms and fireworks. In general, phobias are the result of a previous experience which was unpleasant. When repeated, the phobia develops in relation to the recall of the first offense. However, for the dog, it only takes one experience to establish a noise phobia.
Some dogs have a genetic predisposition for noise phobia. Studies have shown that noise phobia is more common in Collies, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and herding breeds. In some dogs, noise phobia is a gradual process that becomes worse with age. In some pets, it starts as a puppy and develops into a full blown phobia as an adult.
Unfortunately, our response may make the phobia worse. Most of us respond to our pet by petting, coddling, or otherwise consoling the pet, even to the point of giving treats when they are upset and fearful. Instead of coddling, the recommendation is to simply hold the pet firmly in your arms with your arms wrapped firmly around the chest. Even better, use body wraps such as Thunder Shirts. The most important thing is to tightly wrap around the chest.
There are many herbal treatments available as over the counter treatments available; they are supposed to help reduce the phobia. The results of the different herbal treatments are variable. One herb will work in one patient and not the next. Their is no consistency of results, even in the same individual. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one treatment which stands out as a consistent remedy. Because of the inconsistency, there is not one which is recommended.
Previously, medications like valium and acepromazine were used in these dogs. Unfortunately, these medications often create variable results, including stumbling around by the patient. Most of us were not happy with these side effects. Currently, Trazadone, an anti-anxiety prescription, produces the best results with phobia patients. It relieves the anxiety without the side effects. It simply allows these individuals to relax and not react to the noise. Generally, it is given about 90 minutes prior to the exposure to the stimulating event, on an empty stomach. The beauty of the medication is that it allows the individual to be content in the middle of a previously fearful situation.