July 4 is nearly here, and chances are at least 40 percent of our canine patients will experience anxiety during the celebratory fireworks—the most common trigger for dogs with noise aversion.
Fireworks are a source of suffering for 81% of dogs diagnosed with noise aversion. That’s why the busiest day of the year for intake of runaway dogs in animal shelters is July 5 and why we strongly recommend that you not take your pet to any holiday celebration that includes a fireworks display.
Unlike most people, noise-averse pets do not enjoy fireworks, and may become anxious enough to break free and run away. Trying to find a lost pet after dark in a large, crowded public space is a challenge we don’t want any of our clients to face!
Summer thunderstorms can trigger similar fears, causing panic and dangerous reactions, destruction of furniture and fixtures, self-inflicted injuries and frantic escapes.
Cats can be noise-averse, too, but their fear responses are usually not as pronounced. A cat may retreat to a favorite hiding place when frightened by noise, but otherwise appear unfazed. So most of our clients’ concerns about noise anxiety involve dogs.
Diagnosing Your Dog’s Noise Aversion
This brief animated video from the manufacturer of Sileo, a drug we prescribe to treat noise aversion, shows 13 symptoms to help you determine if your dog is noise averse, The company also offers a checklist you can download and print to diagnose your dog. (Hit the back button on your browser to return to this page.)
Home Remedies for Noise Aversion
Home remedies we recommend in mild to moderate cases include playing soft music to mask the noise and carrying on as usual. It’s tempting to comfort a fearful dog, but a better approach is to signal all is well by engaging in normal behavior. A little cuddling is fine, but anything you can do lighten the mood is most helpful. If you can, just be present to your dog.
You may create a “safe spot” for your pet in a windowless interior room, like a closet or bathroom, complete with bed and blankets, where he or she can feel secure while riding out the storm or fireworks display.
Making favorite treats and toys available can help—especially toys that might distract, like a peanut-butter-filled Kong toy. In administering treats, just be careful not to reward fearful behavior.
Thundershirts, which work by applying gentle, constant pressure to the pet’s body, similar to swaddling a baby, are also popular and have helped many dogs and cats.
Helpful Medical Treatment
If noise makes your dog anxious, and home remedies aren’t working as well as you’d like, we can help.
For more severe cases, there are drugs we can prescribe to reduce anxiety and keep your dog relaxed and safe during fireworks, storms and other noisy conditions.
The drugs we most often prescribe to alleviate anxiety symptoms are Xanax and Sileo, and for the best effect, we recommend administering them 30 minutes prior to the anticipated noise.
If home remedies are not effective and you would like to see if drug therapy is indicated, the first step is an office visit to assess the severity of the anxiety and discuss treatment options with you.
While we can’t promise a quieter summer, we may well be able to provide a calmer, more relaxed summer for your noise-averse dog. If you’d like our help, call to schedule an appointment today.