The boom of fireworks or the crash of thunder could create a wave of excitement for you. However, for many dogs, these loud noises trigger fear and anxiety similar to a panic attack.
This anxiety is a progressive medical condition called canine noise aversion. You might know it as noise phobia or noise anxiety. At least one in three dogs suffer from noise aversion, which can leave dog owners and their families feeling helpless during summer fireworks celebrations and rolls of thunder.
Macie Buell watched her 14-year-old Weimaraner mix, Harley, struggle with noise aversion. Fireworks and thunder are particularly stressful for the whole family due to Harley’s condition.
“Harley is my baby, and I hate to see her in any discomfort,” Buell said. “She pants, shakes, tries to hide under furniture or takes cover in the bathtub when she hears thunder or fireworks.”
Harley’s reaction to loud noises is typical of a dog with noise aversion. Other symptoms might include vocalizing fear by barking or whining, seeking extra attention from her owner, destroying furniture or even attempting to escape from home.
Through the years, Buell discussed Harley’s reaction to fireworks and thunder with her veterinarian, Dr. Peter Eeg of Poolesville Veterinary Clinic in Poolesville, Md., who prescribed SILEO, a gel applied to the lining of the mouth that puts the dog to sleep. It’s the first and only U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for canine noise aversion and works for two to three hours.
“We tried behavior therapy, naturopathic therapies and medications, but nothing helped Harley’s fight-or-flight response to noise,” Eeg said, who added it’s important to discuss noise aversion with your vet.
“We have lots of thunder, fireworks and construction in the neighborhood each summer,” Buell said. “The first time I gave Harley SILEO, she napped through the thunder. It was such a relief to our family to see her relaxed and happy.”
Not ready to medicate? Here are a few other ideas:
• Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day, writes Lisa Spector on positively.com. This helps tire them out and makes them less wired.
• Stay close by, because pets find it soothing to have their people next to them, according to peta.com.
• Keep them inside and windows and doors closed, Spector writes. Dogs prefer small and closed-in areas when they are frightened. If they sleep in a crate, this is a good option.
• Give them something fun to do during the main event, suggests purina.com, like play with a treat-filled Kong ball or their favorite toy.
• Use sound therapy, like the “Through a Dog’s Ear” CDs, recommends peta.com. It’s specifically designed to reduce canine anxiety. Play the music before fireworks starts to get them in a calm frame of reference.