The thunderstorms of the Darwin wet season often bring much needed relief from the heat, but for pets it can be a difficult time. Up to 60% of dogs are prone to noise phobias, often brought on by thunderstorms and fireworks. A phobia is an excessive, uncontrollable fear reaction, often referred to as a "panic attack".
The tendency to develop phobias is often inherited, and anxiety and fears may develop into phobias if a pet is repeatedly exposed to very intense or fearful events, this can happen quickly with large thunderstorms or on firecracker night.
The best time to deal with fearful or anxious behaviour in your pet is as soon as it starts. With appropriate treatment, we can often prevent the pet's fear from developing into a severe phobias, which are usually difficult to treat.
In some cases dog’s phobias are so severe that they will injure themselves trying to escape from the storm. Some dogs will become aggressive in response to the fear. Dogs with severe phobias will start to show signs of anxiety when they see dark clouds in the sky, or when the air pressure drops, well before there is any noise.
How we can help deal with noise phobias:
- It is very important not to punish your dog for anxious behaviour, even if you can’t see any reason for it. Punishment is likely to make the anxiety worse.
- A calm reassuring voice, and a comforting pat can be helpful, but do not cling to your pet and make a big fuss, as this is likely to reinforce the behaviour.
- Provide pets with access to a safe haven like an interior room, or somewhere they can hide.
- Play music to help dull the noise from the storm or fireworks.
- Consider using a pheromone collar or spray used to reduce stress and encourage feelings of calm and well-being. We have these available at All Pets Veterinary Hospital.
- Behaviour modification – desensitisation and counter-conditioning can be used to help your pet become more comfortable with loud noises, and start to associate them with positive experiences such as treats or play, these methods take time and patience but can be effective.
- Medication may be necessary in some cases.
If you think your pet suffers from noise related fears or phobias, make an appointment to see one of our vets and we can advise you on the most appropriate treatment options for your pet.