Dr. Mohamed Shares Her Thoughts on Noise Phobias
My last dog, Guinness, suffered from a fear of fireworks and thunderstorms. Actually, the scarcity of thunderstorms here, compared to the northeast, was a significant deciding factor when choosing where to practice medicine upon graduating from vet school!
While our Seattle summers are generally devoid of thunder and lightning, the 4th of July will soon be here, and with that comes fireworks. Even though fireworks signify a time of festivities for most people, for many of our pets, the noise is very frightening – it’s loud, unexpected and accompanied by bright flashes of light.
We’ve all experienced fear at one time or another, and know its physical and emotional manifestations. In many instances, fear is a healthy response which results in physiological and psychological changes that help to keep us safe from danger: Mother Nature’s way of increasing our chance of survival.
It is completely normal for a pet to be briefly startled by fireworks, and this fearful reaction may be displayed as short periods of hiding, hyperactivity, panting or seeking the owner for comfort. However, when startled pets realize that there is no harm associated with the fireworks, they should quickly recover and no longer experience fear. Continuing to feel fear during a situation that poses no threat is considered “maladaptive” – it serves no useful biological purpose and can be quite damaging/traumatic to both the mind and body.
Fortunately, we have many strategies for helping pets with noise and fireworks phobias. They no longer must suffer through periods of such fright. Options include:
- Desensitization & counterconditioning techniques, relaxation techniques, along with changes to the owner’s behavior to avoid accidentally reinforcing the pet’s maladaptive fear response
- Please call to schedule a behavior consultation with one of our veterinarians if you would like to learn more and have a behavior modifying protocol designed for your pet. 206-363-8421 (Seattle) 425-252-8266 (Everett).
- Pheromone therapy
- Anti-anxiety medication
- Sedative medication
- Physical aids, such as:
- Calming Cap
- Mutt Muffs (can also place cotton balls just within the opening of the ears – just remember to take them out!)
- Exercise the pet prior to the onset of the fearful situation
- Offer a chew toy or a food-filled toy – chewing may help to relieve stress
- Environmental modification, such as:
- Classical music (e.g. Through a Dog’s Ear)
- White noise (e.g. running a fan)
- Ensure the pet has a safe, quiet and dark place to go, such as an interior room without windows
- Close and cover the windows
- If the window can’t be covered, leave a light on to lessen the visual effects of the fireworks
- If the pet likes to be in a crate, cover the crate with a heavy blanket to buffer the sound and light
As a reminder, your pet must have been examined by one of our veterinarians within the past year to receive prescription medications. Please contact our office @ 206-363-8421 to schedule your pet’s annual examination, if overdue.