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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 16287
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My dog is very nervous and I have to have the radio on full

Customer Question

My dog is very nervous and I have to have the radio on full blast at the mo to disguise the wind outside.
He shakes like mad and is very unsettled.
He is also frightened when a cupboard door bangs shut, thunder and fireworks.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Now canine anxiety to loud noises (ie fireworks, thunder, etc) or scary situations (ie adverse weather, storms, etc) is not uncommon. Often the root of the problem is that these dogs didn’t experience anything like these situations back in puppy hood (in that first 12 weeks where they were most impressionable). And if they didn’t, this means that this is scary until proven otherwise. The problem that a lot of these issues that cause their anxiety and fear are not regular enough to allow them to become desensitised. This means just as the annual booster vet visit is scary, so are the 1-2 times yearly fireworks and unpredictable weather like we have at the moment.

 

Now in an ideal situation, we want to be addressing his fears for the long term. With fireworks, thunder, and other predictable, this an be accomplished by using sound desensitization therapy (example). The aim is that the more they hear the noise as part of daily life with no negative results with time it loses its frightening factor. So, when New Years or Bonfire night arrives, the sounds are old hat and the dog isn't as scared as he was when he wasn't used to them.

 

That said, at the moment that won't be practical to help Soloman. Instead, our approach just now in the face of this scary weather is to salvage the situation by just trying to help him cope through it. Therefore, in regards XXXXX XXXXX your wee one at the moment, closed curtains and the loud radio are a good start. This will limit what your dog can hear from outside and create a “safe environment.” Do take care with your reassurance because if you react to much to the sounds or his reactions, you can actually heighten his awareness of them, his anxiety, and his reactions to them. Therefore, we want everything low-key and relaxed. If he sees you are not worried, than he will be less worried (as opposed to him thinking you are worried and therefore reconfirming his need to be scared).

Further to this, we find that some dogs benefit from having their own safe place in moments like these. This could be a room, closet, or big pantry that has no windows or external walls. A place where a dog bed or dog crate can be placed and he can retreat when he is unsure about these loud/scary situations. Even if you don't have somewhere like this in your home, you can set up a dog crate covered with a duvet over the top (to block light coming into the slats) in a quiet corner of the house in the same way (of course, remove the dog to the crate or keep it open so he can go in or leave as he needs to). The aim is to give him a safe retreat/cave to be safe from the scary situation.

Furthermore, to address the anxiety he will be experiencing with this situation, you can consider using a de-stressing agent. There are a number of tools we can use to help. Often we will use Adaptil/DAP (LINK), which is a synthetic pheromone that helps to relieve stress, promote relaxation, and help him cope with this situation. This can be used as a spray, a plug-in diffuser (ideally used in the room he spends the most time), or there are even collar preparations. They are available OTC at the vet's, most pet stores, or can even be purchased online (ie Amazon). Furthermore, there are nutritional supplements available over the counter at the vets, like Kalmaid (LINK) or Zylkene that we often use to soothe canine anxiety and stress. As well, we can even use Bach Flower Remedy (LINK) for (though not as well tolerated as the other agents and isn’t as dog specific as the other de-stress therapies). And since these are not drugs per say, they can be used in any combination we may wish.

As well, and potentially of particular use for your lad with his multiple fears, you could consider trying him with a Thunder Shirt (MORE INFO). These can be very helpful for helping nervous dogs cope with situations they find scary.

 

Finally, just to note, what we don't want to do in Soloman's case is use any sedative agents. The reason is because this can actually increase their fear to a situation. Sedation is just a means of chemically restraining the dog such that they may lay there appearing quiet/settled. The reason why this is not ideal is because when we use sedation, we remove their ability to cope with the fearful event as they naturally would. Instead, we prevent them from hiding or reacting in the manner they need to for coping and instead freeze them in place without a means of escaping the scary event.

Overall, these fears are common and it is quite likely that he wasn't exposed to these situations when he was wee. Therefore, for the longer term desensitization and a Thunder shirt would be good options for him. But for the moment, keep as you are, make him a safe retreat, and potentially see if you can pick up one of the de-stressing treatments from your vets or local pet store in the morning. We need to get through this awful blustery weather just now but can work on his fears in general in the days to come.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )

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