Written by Allison Otis, DVM
While we are enjoying what summer has to bring, Independence Day and monsoon storms, our pets maybe experiencing an anxiety filled time due to the loud noises from storms and fireworks. Luckily there are options for aiding these pets such as at-home behavior modifications lessons, medications and professional help.
The first line of defense is behavior modification. This can be accomplished with a tight fitting T-shirt or something called a “Thunder T-Shirt” to give a sense of caressing & comfort during the anxiety event. These t-shirts either seem to help an individual dog or not. Ultimately desensitizing the pet to the thunder or fireworks noise via a CD recording (can be purchased at www.SoundsScary.com or 1-888-241-9545) or you-tube recording at low level volume while either grooming, doing tricks or obedience, promoting food puzzle toys for a distraction. As the lessons progress the volume of the noise is increased to desensitize the pet.
During the anxiety- causing event or behavior modification session, one should not reprimand, punish nor comfort the pet as this creates more fear and/or can validate their anxiety. One should set an example by exuding confidence and calmness.
There is a point where the behavior modification lessons don’t seem to reduce the anxiety, the pet becomes dangerous to itself or becomes overly destructive. At this time medications can be utilized. There are a number of medications on the market to reduce anxiety, some that sedate the patient or some that promotes a change in the brain chemistry.
The group of drugs that modify the brain chemistry and are used to reduce anxiety, canine aggression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and feline urine spraying includes fluoxetine (brand names Prozac or Reconcile), or clomipramine (brand names Clomicalm, Anafranil). These medications alter the brain either by selective-serotonin reuptake inhibition (SSRI), promoting serotonin (“the feel good hormone”) activity or by tricyclic anti-depressant by preventing reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin. Since these drugs do alter the brain chemistry it can take up to two months for a result to become apparent.
Other more fast acting medications used for anxiety are alprazolam (Xanax), a benzodiazepine tranquilizer or acepromazine, a phenothiazine sedative. These sedatives can sometimes cause the pet to become more anxious rather than relaxed. It is imperative to give the medication 1-2 hours before anxiety event and to have a trial run to determine how the medication will react in that individual and what dose of medication will be useful. All these drugs are prescription only and require a good standing veterinarian-patient-client relationship. Please schedule an appointment with us at anytime at Cameron Veterinary Clinic: 505-466-1540.
When pets don’t seem to respond as we hope with the at-home training and medication we can refer to Dr. Jeff Nichol, a veterinary behaviorist in Santa Fe. He has a very informative website www.drjeffnichol.com and also sell DVDs regarding behavioral disorders.
Pet anxiety can be a frustrating endeavor for pet owners, but with the right at-home training, the right combination of medications and professional help your summer as well as your pets for years to come can become a joy.