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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 15142
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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What can be given to a dog who is terrified in thunderstorms,

Resolved Question:

What can be given to a dog who is terrified in thunderstorms, shakes so hard and heart races continually. She is a 7 year old XXXXX XXXXX. She only started last year to be afraid, prior to this she showed no signs of distress.
Hazel Scutt
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
Hello, my name isXXXXX and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I'd like to help with your concerns about Biddy's sudden fear of thunderstorms.

First we need to make sure that she doesn't have any physical problems, specifically an ear infection that will make loud noises painful for her. So a veterinary visit for a thorough exam is needed.

If all is OK I think what you need to work on with her is building trust that she will be OK during a thunderstorm or around a loud noise no matter where she is.
You might try a recording of a thunderstorm set on very low volume several times during the day. By doing this we hope to extinguish her fear by repeated exposures at a safe level for her and working up. Amazon.com has a thunder recording for purchase. Here's the link:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_19?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=thunder+cd+for+dogs&sprefix=thunder+cd+for+dogs

If she starts getting anxious, move back to a quieter level and work at that level for awhile.

If she's uncomfortable at any level of thunder noise we may need to use either a homeopathic, such as Bach's rescue remedy, or a traditional medication such as fluoxetine or clomipramine to get her calm enough to learn.
I also like the DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) diffusers or collars very much. This is a synthetic analog of a calming pheromone a nursing bitch produces when nursing.
There is a product called a "Thundershirt" which is a tight fitting vest which many dogs find comforting during stressful situations. You can purchase these online or at pet stores.

I also want to mention try not to address her fear. Try and remain calm and ignore it if you can. The more you attempt to calm an anxious dog the more afraid they tend to get. By getting attention it's almost a positive reinforcement for fearful behavior
You can give her things to do to distract her. If she's well trained ask her to get a toy or perform a task or trick. It's OK to have her literally "work" through her anxiety. And by doing so forget about her fear.

I would try and use extinguishing therapy (increasing thunder noise via the c/d player), work therapy, and calming pheromones. Maybe some medication just to soothe her enough that she is able to learn, none of us learn well when we are terrified. I think those are really good places to start.

In the meantime while you are working on her learning not to be afraid you might ask your veterinarian for a tranquilizer to use when you know a storm is coming. The more times she gets herself worked up the more difficulty you will have "unlearning" her fearful response. I find acepromazine quite helpful in these cases.

In a pinch sometimes a high dose of the antihistamine Benadryl (diphenhydramine as the only active ingredient) works as it has a side effect of making them sleepy. Give it 2 hours before the storm, if possible, at a dose of 0.5mg to 1mg per kilogram of body weight. It can be repeated every 8 hours if necessary. Do not use if your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease or glaucoma.

Please feel free to reply with questions.
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 15142
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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