Helping dogs deal with fireworks and other noise anxiety
Fireworks and thunderstorms can trigger fear and anxiety for dogs, similar to a panic attack. A third of all dogs will suffer from noise anxiety connected to suddenness of the sound.
June 28, 2019
Independence Day fireworks can be a highlight of the summer season for many. But for the family dog, fireworks and thunderstorms can trigger fear and anxiety similar to a panic attack. A third of all dogs will suffer from noise anxiety connected to suddenness of the sound.
“To some degree, their ears are more sensitive. They pick up a wider range of sounds than we do,” said veterinarian Mark D. Freeman at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. “Sudden very loud sounds can cause dogs to be very frightened, and with the continuation of noise, it’s sort of a ramping up effect. The more noise they are exposed to, the more reactive they become.”
Many dogs will look for a place to hide or a place where they feel more safe and secure.
“When they are in a situation where they are being bombarded with noises that are causing a tremendous amount of stress for them, they are looking for any source of security, and that includes a ‘safe’ hiding place,” said Freeman.
“There are a number of different techniques that can be utilized for animals that have phobias associated with loud noises. A general rule is to approach any phobia through behavior modification therapy, if that’s an option; desensitizing animals to the loud noises so they pretty much ignore them.”
"Medications, such as sedatives, can be effective in helping a dog feel less anxiety in stressful situations. Sileo(R), contains a low concentration of a sedative used commonly in veterinary practice. It has been formulated as an oral gel that is administered directly on the gums and absorbed into the blood stream. It works quickly, and can be very helpful in dogs with noise phobias."
“Unless you know for a fact that your dog has been desensitized and is not afraid of loud noises, I would advise against taking your dog to a fireworks show.”
“Every year near the 4th of July, we see a significant increase in the number of traumatic injuries to dogs, specifically related to the fear response associated with fireworks. Dogs have jumped through glass windows and off decks and balconies, chewed through doors and walls, and many get hit by cars when they panic and run away from the noise.”
Dr. Mark D. Freeman is an assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
To secure a live or recorded video interview with Mark Freeman from the Virginia Tech campus, contact Bill Foy at 540-998-0288.
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