With all the recent storm activity and the up-coming 4th of July holiday, many pet owner have been asking for ways to help their pets deal with noise anxiety.
Unfortunately for pets which suffer from noise anxiety, we can’t always predict when a storm will occur. And the fireworks season seems to last longer every year. Some of my clients have noted that their neighbors set off fireworks and use firecrackers over a 4-6 period from Memorial Day through mid-July.
Signs of storm and noise related fearfulness vary between pets and species. Some dogs do not show signs when their owners or other pets are with them, but can become very destructive when left alone. When owners punish this destructive behavior, the anxiety response can escalate, compounding a pet’s fear reactions.
Unlike dogs, cats are more reclusive when stressed. They may simply hide, or if they show destructive tendencies, they may have urinary accidents.
Pets that internal the anxiety symptoms often have more deleterious long term effects from anxiety.
Internalizing may make a pet appear outwardly to be adjusted, but long term stress may bring about more frequent infections, allergy signs or frequent visits to the vet due to recurrent ailments.
Untreated or undiagnosed stress will increase their risk of health problems, such as hormonal imbalances, like Cushing’s disease, gastrointestinal ailments, like colitis and more life threatening disorders, including cancer.
Because chronic stress is so harmful to a pet’s well-being, it is important for owners to be alert to subtle changes in behavior which can indicate
Signs to be alert to that your pet is anxious include:
- Having accidents in the house
- Decreased appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Destruction of home areas or self-destructive behaviors
- Heavy breathing
- Dilated (large) pupils
- Tucked tail in a dog or a twitching tail in a cat
If you know your suffers from any anxiety condition, including separation anxiety, situational phobias, fear of storms or fireworks, it is important to let your veterinarian know.
Ask about solutions to try before the symptoms escalate. Pets have been known to jump through windows or escape during stressful situations.
Early intervention leads to more successful desensitization.
Options for stress management include using the following individually or in combination:
- Pressure wraps including Anxiety Wraps or Thunder shirts which comfort some pets
- Pheromones, which are species specific for dogs and cats, are natural chemicals which signal the brain to indicate the pet is in safe surroundings. Products like Adaptil come in collar form, sprays and diffusers.
- Some essential oils can be very calming for pets, but use caution when diffusing oils, as some are toxic to pets. Cats are more sensitive than dogs and many essential oils are contaminated with toxins which can cause health problems for pets. Talk with a veterinarian who is familiar with the use of medical grade essential oils, before using this method. Lavender is one oil with calming effects.
- Supplements containing L-theanine, B vitamins, or valerian root may help some pets feel calmer during storms. .
- Chinese herbs and acupuncture are natural approaches which are effective for many anxious pets. Vets with certification in acupuncture can recommend the appropriate herb combination based on a TCVM diagnosis.
- Sileo, a transmucosal medication, which owners can administer at home, is an easy to use solution for dog owners which can help reduce storm and noise anxiety. This is a safe prescription medication which your veterinarian can prescribe. The advantage of this solution is that owners can give it after a storm or fireworks have started and achieve effective anxiety control. This is not the case with many other drugs and supplements, which must be given prior to the adrenaline rush to be effective.
- Trazadone is another prescription medication which can be used for a situational or long-term anxiety solution. If your pet is exposed to a month of fireworks, this drug may be a better solution than Sileo.
The keys to success in treating noise anxiety are early intervention, planning ahead and giving your vet feedback, so she may modify your pet’s treatment program based on how well your pet’s anxiety is controlled. If your pet is still fearful, adjusting doses of supplements or adding a drug therapy may provide more effective relaxation for your pet.
Plan a safer and healthier 4th of July for your pet by scheduling an appointment with your vet this week.