ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Startled by earsplitting blasts, many otherwise stable pets will endure almost continual panic this weekend. Scared dogs may hide, tremble, drool, cry or howl, and even urine soil, vomit or pass diarrhea. Many get clingy, but some escape the home and risk getting hit on the road.
A freaked-out dog or cat needs reassurance, but shelter from the bombardment is much better. Allow an anxious pet to find relief anywhere she feels better. A bathroom, dark closet or an open pet crate located away from windows and exterior walls, should be available. Unpredictable flashes trigger even more fear. Close the blinds and turn off the TV.
You can cancel out some of the racket with a white noise machine or a loud fan. “Through a Dog’s Ear” is music that promotes canine-specific calming brain waves. Mutt Muffs, well tolerated by most dogs, help dampen loud noises. Promote a calm emotional state with a plug-in Adaptil pheromone diffuser.
A compelling, canine-specific behavioral opportunity will make a difference. Foraging is an innate behavior for all dogs, wild or domestic. With his morning meal delayed, a food-motivated dog can focus on extracting his sustenance from food-dispensing toys or puzzles much as he would to survive in the wild. Working his brain, mouth and paws will divert your dog’s attention away from your neighbors’ pyrotechnic proclivities.
There are oral antianxiety medications that can be given as needed. Alprazolam is helpful for dogs; lorazepam or gabapentin is better for cats. A new prescription treatment, called Sileo, is a gel that is placed between a dog’s lower lip and gum. With no sedation or side effects, Sileo, best administered prior to the artillery assault, can also be given after the explosions are underway. This short-acting “oral-transmucosal” treatment can be repeated every two hours. Sileo is safe when given along with other medications.
Avoid acepromazine. This old-fashioned tranquilizer sedates pets, but does little to reduce anxiety. Unable to physically act out their fear, groggy dogs and cats are trapped in a chemical straightjacket, leading to intense panic. Get ready now. Freaked-out pets who are left to fend for themselves worsen with each terrifying event.
Dr. Jeff Nichol provides pet behavior consultations in person, and virtually by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.