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Help! My dog has noise phobia, Newstead Vet

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Thunderstorms and fireworks are pretty common here in QLD and other parts of Australia this time of the year and I thought I would take this opportunity to write about noise phobias - thunder and fireworks.

How many of you have found yourself trying to soothe your dog during a storm? Most owners would recognise “storm phobia” as the three “H”s - the howling, the hiding and the havoc! Storms are actually more stressful if your pet is in an apartment particularly as the thunder echoes against the surrounding tall buildings. Here are some tips on preventing your furry companion from doing some serious damage to themselves (broken bones and tissue damage) when a stressful storm front is at your doorstep.

Help! My dog is afraid of the thunder, Newstead Vet.

Recognizing your dog has a phobia of noise

Do thunderstorms make your pooch quiver with fear and send him scurrying under the bed? Panting and pacing around when the weather turns foul? It is likely that a dog suffering from storm phobia will react badly to other loud noises such as fireworks, and will likely suffer from separation anxiety. Some experts consider storm phobia to be a progressive behavioural disease – meaning that your dog is likely to display worsening signs of fear with each successive thunderstorm. Act early - recognise the signs and take steps now.

Distract and reassure

This method works best when your furry kid is just beginning to show signs of noise phobia. Engage your dog in activities that he or she enjoys, distracting her from behaving fearfully. Get the tennis ball out and roll it around the floor. Hugs and tummy rubs with lots of treats are never a bad thing. However, be careful not to reward your doggie for a fear reaction with soothing sounds or stroking as you might positively reinforce fear reactions.

Hidden cave behind a waterfall

Create a comfortable place for your pooch to go to during a storm. Crates or enclosed room (think closet or bathroom) allows your pooch to safely hide away from the negative stimulus. Drowning out the noises with a loud radio can be beneficial. I once heard of an owner calmed her dog down by playing an entire soundtrack of Lady Gaga's songs during the storm to a dog in a bathroom.

Desensitization with noise

Playing a thunderstorm sound CD when it is not raining can reduce the doggie’s sensitivity to loud noises. Play a game of fetch while starting at low volume and gradually work your way up to very high volume. This process may be a good way to negate fearful reactions.

Natural therapies can work magical wonders

Flower essence such as Bach flower extracts (Rescue Remedy) or Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffusers (D.A.P) may supplement the above tips to help you build a calming environment around the dog.

Drugs and behaviorists

Talk to your vet about the range of drugs that can help your furry kid if you are concern of his or her health or safety – dogs who work themselves into a frenzy can, from time to time, get self-destructive. Some clients have a negative association of "drugging" their pets but look at it this way, there are many people who are on Xanax and they seem to lead a normal life. Get a referral to a vet who specialises in behaviour if necessary.

Come see us at Newstead Vet, Emporium  Shop 15, 1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley, if you have further questions about the health of your pet.  (07) 3216 0045.