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Thunderstorm Anxiety in Dogs

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This time of year, we often seen dogs at the ER for noise-related anxiety during thunderstorms and/or fireworks. Although we at AERC are happy to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, some preparation on your part can avoid a trip to see us, particularly if you can identify the anxiety before it becomes severe!

Signs of noise anxiety or phobia:

  • Panting, freezing, hiding or pacing during a storm, when a storm is approaching, or during fireworks and/or other loud noises.
  • Running away, bolting, jumping out of windows, becoming aggressive, or chewing through kennels and/or walls.

This can worsen each time your dog is exposed to the noise. These anxious behaviors can be dangerous to your family and your dog.

Treatment options to discuss with your veterinarian:

  • In minor cases (generally with a young or new dog displaying panting, pacing, or other very minimal anxiety), you can try making the event positive by giving treats, or by counter-conditioning.
  • Use of pheromones like DAP and use of a Thundershirt can also be helpful.
  • For dogs with more pronounced or severe anxiety, medications such as alprazolam, trazodone or others can lessen the anxiety associated with these loud noises, particularly when given before the scary stuff starts. Alternatively, sedatives such as acepromazine can also be considered.

Working with your veterinarian, or sometimes a veterinary behavior specialist, you can develop a plan that involves behavior modification plus a medication, if needed. Trying to soothe your dog may come naturally, but it can actually make the anxiety worse since it serves to reward it. In addition, punishing your dog can also worsen the anxiety by making it more frightening.

If your dog’s anxiety is worsening and your veterinarian is not available, AERC is available 24 hours a day, including holidays!

Learn more about noise aversion in pets here.

Written by Abigail Albright, DVM.

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet


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