Tag Archives: noise phobias

Expert tips on dealing with your dog’s fear of thunderstorms

Thunderstorm season is almost here, and hundreds of thousands of dog owners are facing it with dread. What can be done about a dog’s fear of thunder and lightning? I asked my trainer daughter, Mikkel Becker, to respond.

Q: It’s thunderstorm season, and my 3-year-old Australian shepherd has become so afraid of the noise that he tries to jump out the window. I’m really afraid he’s going to hurt himself. He has never seemed afraid of storms before. Is there anything that can be done?

A: Many dogs are fearful of the sound of thunder — and possibly the accompanying lightning flashes, loud wind, and changes in ozone levels and barometric pressure. Research has found that herding breeds like your Aussie seem to be more prone to this type of fear. In these breeds, at least, the fear may have a genetic component.

Signs of this type of fear usually begin with barking, seeking attention (pawing at people, for instance) and pacing. The signs can swiftly escalate to trembling, panting, howling, destructiveness and attempts to escape, even if that means jumping through a window or chewing through a door.

Those early signs can be subtle. People might not notice them, or they think their dog will outgrow the fear as he matures or becomes used to thunderstorms.

Unfortunately, repeated exposure simply makes the problem worse. If you notice that your dog is fearful during storms, talk to your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist right away. Medication in the very early stages with drugs that help to reduce panic can make the fear easier to manage, but it’s essential to give it before the storm starts. Often, the best solution is medication combined with snug-fitting shirts and capes, which have a soothing effect, and canine ear muffs and eye shades, which help to limit the dog’s exposure to the frightening phenomena. It can also be helpful to teach your dog to go to a place where he feels secure. That can be a closet, a crate lined with a towel or blanket (keep the door open), or a bathroom or bathtub. — Mikkel Becker

Read more, including spring pet tips, in this week’s Pet Connection!

Don’t ‘Ace’ the Fear: Why acepromazine may make your dog’s fireworks fear worse

hiding chihuahuaIs what you’re doing to help your dog with his fireworks and thunderstorm fears making them worse?

Fear of fireworks and thunderstorms can ruin a pet’s summer, but sometimes our best efforts to help our pets feel better have the opposite effect. One of the worst offenders is the drug acepromazine, known as Ace.

Once widely prescribed for noise phobias, acepromazine not only doesn’t work, it might make things much worse. From an article by my friend and colleague , one of the leading veterinary behaviorists in the world, published in DVM360:

I know that the common “treatment” for storm and noise phobias and veterinary office visits is acepromazine. In truth, I wish this medication would be placed at the far back of a top shelf and used only exceptionally. Acepromazine is a dissociative anesthetic meaning that it scrambles perceptions. Ask yourself if a scrambling of perceptions will make an anxious or uncertain dog worse or better. It’s always worse, and we make many if not most dogs more sensitive to storms by using this drug. In part this is also because sensitivity to noise is heightened.

This is a recipe for disaster for these dogs, and, in fact, they learn to be more fearful and more reactive because of these associations. If what you need is sedation – acepromazine can be an acceptable adjuvant, but it makes most of my really fearful and really reactive patients worse, so all sorts of other drug combos can work better and do less harm than is done by the routine use of acepromazine.

You can read the complete article here, and hear more from her on this issue in the video below. Share it with your veterinarian if necessary.


One more “don’t”: Whatever you do, don’t lock your pet in a room or area they can escape from. Dogs and cats have been known to get out of homes and garages, destroy crates, and break leashes and collars to escape when terrified by storms and fireworks. The Fourth of July is a major day for shelters taking in lost pets — or, worse, pet owners never finding them.

Lonely Stray Dog ??on The Street

Enjoy the summer holiday, but keep your pets’ safety in mind, too! Here are some positive tips for things that really will help!