Why is my dog so frightened of loud noises such as thunder, firecrackers and loud vehicles?
With hurricane season and the fourth of July right around the corner, these are the questions we need to ask ourselves. Fears and phobias can develop from a single experience (one learning event) or from continuous exposure to the fearful stimulus. Although some dogs react with a mild fear response of panting and pacing, others get extremely agitated and may panic or become destructive. These dogs are experiencing a phobic response to the stimulus. These phobias may develop because of an inherent sensitivity to the stimulus (i.e a genetic predisposition) or exposure to a highly traumatic experience associated with the stimulus (e.g a carport collapsing on the pet in a windstorm). With multiple exposures to a fearful event, a dog may become more intensely reactive. Receiving attention or affection by well-meaning owners who are merely trying to calm the pet down may actually intensify the response.
Over the first few years of life, there are a number of developmental stages when fear might arise. They might begin to arise as the sensitive period for socialization and the fear stages emerge between two and four months of age, may begin to emerge with increasing maturity (six to twelve months of age) or may not emerge until behavioral maturity at eighteen months to three years of age. These fears may slowly increase in the intensity over the years or may suddenly seem to intensify, especially if there has been a particularly unpleasant experience. However, fears that begin to emerge well into the adult or senior might be related to a medical problem that lead to painful conditions, altered mental state as might be associated with diseases that affect neurological function, declining senses, endocrine imbalances or cognitive dysfunction.
Dogs that experience phobias often need professional intervention by a veterinary or applied animal behaviorist. These pets may be at risk of harming themselves or the owner’s property when faced with the stimulus, especially if their owners are not home.
Seiler Animal Hospital has many different products for your pet to help ease these phobias. Some of these include non-medical products such as a Thundershirt, which is a wrap that applies gentle pressure and has dramatic calming effects. This wrap is placed around your pet’s torso, creating the feeling of a “hug”. Many owners report great results with the Thundershirt. Other non-medical options include Rescue Remedy (homeopathic drops to place directly in pet’s mouth or in food) and other oral calming aids. There are many pharmaceutical options to consider for anxiety issues in your pet. Please call us at 954-491-1222 or stop by to discuss these options.
The staff at Seiler Animal Hospital wishes you a pleasant and safe summer season.
Courtesy of Douglas A. Thieme, DVM Seiler Animal Hospital 2650 NE 57th Street Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308.