It Started with the Blue Angels

The practice fly over Kailua on a clear Wednesday morning was awesome to witness from my vantage point at the office. Banking, roaring, back and forth over residential Kailua! I went back to the house for lunch, and drat! One of my dogs was missing! I found her in a corner of the yard she does not frequent, shaking uncontrollably, inconsolable. Since then, Lehua's fear of noises broadened to include thunder, heavy rain, fireworks, and ordinances from the Marine Base. Pacing, shaking, and hiding got progressively worse as my dog aged. Her reaction to noise happened before I could sense anything and lasted for hours after the stimulation passed.

I consider myself lucky, as she never escaped from my house or yard, never destroyed windows or screens getting in or out of the house, and never was physically injured.

The stories I hear from clients are of self-destructive behaviors, including cuts, scrapes, and broken teeth, or of lost dogs wandering unfamiliar neighborhoods and streets, unable to find their way back home. Some owners have pets in frequent distress and want to make life more comfortable for their pet. Others may have a nuisance barker that is not acceptable to the neighbors. Some pets find themselves in physical danger.

Whether it is thunder, fireworks, or jets at the treetops, one thing we all share is wanting to protect our pets from loud noises that spark the noise phobia syndrome, and from the risky behaviors they can adopt.

Many times, keeping your pet in a closed room with A/C, loud TV or music, and human companionship works until the noise passes. Popular items like the Thunder Shirt (a nod to Temple Grandin for that!) or Adaptil pheromone collars may be helpful in reduce anxieties in dogs.

Behavior modification is also a great idea. It takes time, owner and pet patience, and the event to cooperate to begin the process. After all, the pet's original behavior was modified from a normal calm to a frantic quivering bowl of jello (my dog) or to a lightning bolt of a dog going anywhere but here. A thorough discussion of assessing pets with noise phobia and behavior treatment strategies can be found at this website.

Medication is another option. Herbal solutions have their place: I've heard anecdotal reports of success using over-the-counter products from pet shops or health food outlets. Pharmaceuticals are also an inexpensive option. Tranquilizers, anxiety-reducing medications, and sedatives are available. Pets need to be healthy when medicated. Some medications need loading doses for weeks prior to the event. Some must be swallowed one to two hours prior to the excitement phase. And no single medication works for all individuals, so a trial run may be recommended.

A new FDA approved oral gel that calms without sedating is now available specifically for noise phobic dogs. It is applied onto the gums for absorption, not swallowed, and lasts for 4 hours. It is repeatable to effect, and comes in an easy-to-use dosing syringe. This product is called Sileo, and you can find more info at their website.

Just in time for Independence Day!

Have a happy and safe 4th of July...from all of us at Kailua Animal Clinic!

John Haddock, DVM

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Last updated 2016 June 15.