Has your best friend become afraid of loud noises? Do you dread the weather report predicting thunderstorms? Is July 4th on your blacklist? Is your pet destructive and you just don't understand why suddenly this is occurring?
Well the first huge problem is we can't tell you how or why we are feeling a certain way! Your only option is to become a detective, guessing and second guessing our every move.
Noise phobia is a serious medical condition. Fear is a normal reaction, it keeps animals safe, "fight or flight" in response to a threat. Anxiety on the other hand is anticipation of a scary event, the worrying that something might happen. Noise aversion is both an anxiety as well as a fear induced condition. As it grows it becomes a phobia, extreme and irrational. This fear slowly becomes pathologic and starts to infringe on normal daily life. These pets start feeling like they are always in danger. every minute of the day. Anyone that has a pet with phobia issues like this knows what I'm talking about! These conditions should be treated quickly when it first appears, ultimately it will worsen over time. Can you imagine being frightened every hour of every day?
Ways to tell if your pet is suffering from noise aversion? When a loud noise occurs do they howl, cry, shake, bark, destroy your house, urinate inappropriately, or try to escape? These could be telltale signs that your dog is over the top stressed out! It may be something as simple as the garbage man bangs the cans on the driveway, or kids yelling. Maybe your pet jumped off the couch the first time he heard the garbage man drop your can on the driveway and he tweeked his back. The pain associated with the bang makes him apprehensive, so overtime each time he hears the garbage truck coming he gets anxious, soon its any vehicle coming. Slowly this will grow into a very debilitating condition.
It is important to understand that this is a serious medical condition and your pet is crying out for help. We all know how stress affects our health, well same with your pet! Longterm stress on a body weakens the immune system, strains the brain and vital organs. and our relationship with our pet.
Talk to your veterinarian about these behaviors. He or she will probably recommend some general lab tests to rule out common diseases (hypothyroidism for one) that may also cause these symptoms. Your pet's doctor will develop a plan which may include visiting with a behavioralist, making changes in your pet's environment, or even medications.
The main focus on treatment is altering the dogs response to the event that causes the anxiety. The key to this is not rewarding the anxious or fearful response. "OK" is a word that most dogs associate with a reward. Telling them during an anxious event that it is "OK" is rewarding a negative behavior. In turn the dog will now become more anxious. Petting can also be a reward, but during a stressful episode it is a reward for their anxiety.
Gentle continuos pressure has been shown to be comforting, hugging is a great start. There are many products on the market with this idea in mind. Calming wraps such as the Thundershirt we carry at SAC has helped many pets including our own. Calming caps limit the dogs peripheral vision while also applying mild pressure to the head and face. The Storm Defender Cape wraps around the pets body and decreases static electricity associated with storms (stormdefender.com).
Eye shields that prevent or limit light may help. Tinted Doggles or the mesh variety may ease the anxiety (Doggles.com). Blocking sound may also be an aid for your pet, Muttmuffs (Muttmuffs.com) have a product that may help.
We carry many different homeopathic calming medications that many clients have found helpful during an episode. A new medication just recently launched could be the answer to get your dog back on track. Sileo, latin for "be silent", may help alleviate signs of noise aversion. The drug is administered by the owner between the lip and gum. It has a calming effect, not sedation so he or she will remain fully functioning and work through the episode. SAC has just started using this on some of our patients with severe noise aversion issues so stay tuned.
Some important things to remember.
Are you adding a puppy to a household where you already have a noise phobia dog?
This can be a learned response. If you have a dog with anxiety issues and plan on adding a new puppy to your household talk to your veterinarian about ways to prevent the new addition from "inheriting" these behaviors. Veterinary Behavioralists recommend conditioning a puppy to loud noises such as fireworks and thunderstorms by making it a game. Grab a ball or your puppies favorite toy and play through the storm. Who knows, maybe the old-timer will join in also!
There are certain noise phobia traits that are inherited, especially in herding breeds. Ask the breeder if the parents have exhibited noise anxiety. Caught early we can prevent the issues from snowballing.
What is causing my pets anxiety? Check out this informative video More then storms and fireworks