TREATING NOISE PHOBIAS
The use of Medication--It is not a badge of shame, it is humane!!
Fear and Anxiety does cause suffering. For any other cause of suffering we would want pain medication. Realize that behavior medicatioins are "pain" medication for the brain!
Photo by mccun934 some rights reserved
Short Term Noise Phobia Medication Handout
Many owners call us requesting medication for noise phobias in their pets. There are many options and choices! In addition to medications, herbal and nutriceutical or nutritional supplements are also available and can help!
Before starting drug therapy, a consult appointment with us is very important to choose the best treatment plan for your pet. Baseline blood work is needed before starting medications along with at least once yearly blood monitoring. Medication choices and dosages should be individualized to each patient. Close communication and follow up with your veterinarian will be needed to maximize the benefits. Proper use of medication is key to success.
Please do not wait until the last minute in hopes that a single medication will instantly resolve the problem! Some medications will need does adjustments, some may have side effects that are important to monitor and understand.
Medication use alone is never recommended and rarely successful. Medications should always be paired with other strategies such as ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT and BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION for best results.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT HERBAL AND NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
These natural supplements are often added on to other medications to maximize treatment success!
PRESCRIPTION ANTI-ANXIETY OR BEHAVIOR MODIFYING DRUGS are often recommended for moderate to severe cases, or even in mild cases if other therapies have not improved symptoms to an acceptable level. It is important to realize that although there are several safe and effective drugs to use for noise phobia, no drug has been FDA approved for use in dogs for this purpose.
Extreme fear and anxiety cause suffering and just as with anything that causes pain, it should be treated! And just as we recommend for any other condition for which we diagnose and prescribe drugs, an exam and office consult is needed to select and monitor the most appropriate medication and treatment plan.
It is important to realize noise phobia can be a very serious problem of emotional distress to both dog and owner. Serious injury to the dog and/or home may occur if we do not take rapid action. An appointment with your veterinarian is needed to discuss all medication and treatment options.
Some of the medication options we may discuss with you are below.
1. Anti-Anxiety Medications for situational or long term use (examples: Alprazolam, Clonidine, or Trazodone)
2. Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors or SSRIs (such as Fluoxetine)
3. Tricyclic Antidepressants or TCAs (such as Clomipramine).
4. Tranquilizers such as Acepromazine. Acepromazine was commonly used in the past but is now NO longer recommended. Acepromazine may cause sedation, and can give a false sense that the dog is "better", but it does not relieve anxiety. The dog may still suffer but be immobilized giving a false sense that the medication is working. Acepromazine can also increase sensitivity to noises. This drug is only no used in very rare cases as an add on to other medications.
IN MILD TO MODERATE CASES, ESPECIALLY IF NO ADVANCE PREPARATION IS POSSIBLE, THE RAPID ACTING ANTI-ANXIETY MEDICATIONS ARE OFTEN CHOSEN. There is a wide range of doses for drugs in this class and dogs vary widely in their response to them. Often the dose needs to be titrated to effect and to the individual patient. The goal is to titrate to a dose that causes that causes only mild sedation while avoiding doses that cause wobbliness or more profound sedation. When dosed ideally the dog may feel a preference for sleep, but still has the ability to respond, come when called, eat etc.
Giving some test doses of an anti-anxiety medication before the stressful event is recommended. The drug should ideally be given at least 30-60 min prior to the noise event. Starting them several hours in advance if storms are forcasted is reasonable.
Anti-anxiety meds may have side effects of sedation, ataxia (loss of coordination), and increased appetite. In a few rare individuals hyperexcitability may be seen instead of relaxation. Trying these drugs prior to need to determine response and proper dose is recommended. Close communication with your veterinarian will be important to determine how to use dose and use them properly. These drugs can be used off and on, as needed, as noise events arise.
IF STORMS ARE FREQUENT AND LONG TERM, OR THE NOISE PHOBIA IS SEVERE, THE LONGER ACTING SSRIs OR TCAs MAY BE NEEDED.
These drugs must be given on a long term, daily basis. It usually takes several weeks before these drugs become effective. Ideally they should be started very early in the spring before storm season starts, or 6-8 weeks before fireworks season. A veterinary physical exam and laboratory blood work are recommended before starting these medications, and should be repeated periodically with long term use.
It is important that your veterinarian review your pet's full drug history before starting these drugs as there can be many interactions with other medications (Amitraz, Tramadol, Phenobarbital, other SSRIs/TCAs, thyroid medications, Phenobarbital, and even over the counter herbal remedies). The SSRIs and TCAs can occasionally have some gastrointestinal side effects such as decreased appetite or nausea.
While on the longer acting SSRIs or TCAs, if anxiety is still present when storms or fireworks occur, an anti-anxiety medication can be added in for additional benefit on an as needed basis.
THERE IS HOPE FOR THE STORM OR NOISE PHOBIC PET! For best results, utilizing several different therapies will be much more effective than relying on a single treatment or a drug.
Behavior modification should be started early on in the season, or even in the off season.
A veterinary exam, consultation, and lab work should be scheduled if drug therapy is required.
Drugs should ideally be started and tested for response prior to their use for noise events.
Drugs can have positive effects if used appropriately and along with other therapies.
Drugs can have side effects and require veterinary monitoring.
There is no single simple answer to noise phobia, but there are many things that we can do to reduce the anxiety and distress that our pets are feeling. If your dog is suffering from noise phobia, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to tailor a treatment program for your pet.
For Other Treatment Methods to Treat Noise Phobias Click the Links Below
DAP Pheromone Therapy
Body Wraps and Capes
Herbal or Natural Remedies