Dog Phobias: Fireworks and Thunderstorms

Imagine if you didn’t know what that noise and sound was and you were helpless to protect your family. You would be anxious too. If you know your dog is distressed by thunder and fireworks, plan ahead. At Southport Vet Center, we have a wide variety of supplements and medications to get you through the night.

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At this animal hospital, we prefer to start with the non-pharmaceutical method whenever possible. Thundershirts, sort of a tight-fitting vest, mimic the calm that is imparted with a firm hug and can be very helpful. Zylkene is a new product that works like the enzyme in mothers milk that causes tranquilization when infants nurse. It has no toxic threshold so can be used as a situational therapy, meaning you can give a higher dose before an event without a month long ramp up. Rescue remedy is a calming homeopathic remedy that can work for some dogs. DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) collars and sprays release your dog’s own endorphins when they smell the collar (meant to be worn all the time, not per event). Theanine is an herbal supplemental with anti-anxiety benefits but needs a wind-up period of about 1 month before it starts working and needs to be given daily.

lightningQuick onset and short acting valiums such as clorazapate can help considerably but you need to get a prescription from us. Never give your pet your own medications. Trazadone is a different category of drug that facilitates relaxation and can also be used for situational anxiety. Both Trazadone and valiums need to be given 1-2 hours before the stressful event to be effective. Your doctor needs to direct usage on both of these drugs. The classic tranquilizer is acepromazine and while it does have its place, it usually causes prolonged sedation and animals can have a problem regulating heat while on it. It is inappropriate for use in older or debilitated animals.

In a pinch, when a storm or fireworks pop up, keep your dogs in the quietest room you can with the radio or tv on. Give them a positive treat to work on and if they will tolerate it, put cotton balls in their ears. Never let your dogs outside off lead during these events as it’s the most likely time they can run away in a panic.

— By Dr. Patricia Hart

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Southport Veterinary Center


2131 Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06824
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