|Healthy Homes for Kids and Pets
|Noise Phobia in Dogs
|Back to Articles Home Page
Atopy (Inhalant Allergy)
Bufo Toad Poisoning
Cat Home Safety Tips
Common Things to Watch for
Dental Disease in Pets
Dog Safety Tips
Feline Heartworm Disease
Mallassezia (yeast) Dermatitis
Reasons to Neuter
Noise Phobia in Dogs
Weight Problems in Pets
Otitis (Ear Infections)
Seizures and Epilepsy
Reasons to Spay
Toxoplasmosis, Cats and Women
|If your dog is anything like my dog Nikki, you have witnessed first hand what
a "brontophobic" or thunderphobic reaction is.
At the first distant rumble of a far off storm her ears perk up, her eyes begin to
dilate and her heart rate quickens. As the storm approaches and the thunder-
claps sound nearer she begins to seek a safe place to hide. Sometimes it’s
behind the couch, other times it’s in the laundry room or my bedroom closet---
anyplace that is small and dark. By then she is panting heavily and shaking
Not able to find a "safe" spot she goes from one place to the next in an attempt
to hide from the storm. It is not until after the storm has passed and the
thunder has ceased that she is able to relax again. Unfortunately, many south
Florida dogs experience the same reaction as Nikki does. And the near daily
thunderstorms of summertime only adds to the problem.
Just like humans, all dogs experience fear and some suffer from phobias and
anxiety. Animal behaviorists define fear as a feeling of apprehension which is
associated with an object, a person or class of persons (such as a dog fearing
men), or a social situation such as a dog fearing crowds. Although fear and
fearful behavior is a normal part of animal behavior and helps the animal to
survive by causing it to avoid harmful objects or situations, some animals may
exhibit abnormal fears or exaggerated responses to harmless objects or
A phobia is a greatly exaggerated fear response that is far out of proportion to
the stimulus. It occurs suddenly and may rapidly progress to a panic state.
Phobic behaviors are never helpful and may lead to physical injury. In
addition to the signs listed above, a dog may exhibit other signs such as
vocalizing, pacing, drooling, urinating or defecating and destructive behavior.
Dogs that exhibit severe forms of panic attacks can injure themselves by
jumping out of windows, getting stuck and struggling in small spaces or by
breaking teeth in an attempt to escape.
Probably the two most common causes of noise phobia in dogs are
thunderstorms and fireworks. Other causes include snoring, gunshots, cars
backfiring, and airplanes landing or taking off.
What can be done to help? Although there is no specific cure for a noise-
phobic dog, behavioral modification techniques and the judicious use of
medications may help lessen the severity of the signs.
A recording of a thunderstorm played on your stereo at low levels and
gradually increased in volume over time may desensitize the dog to the real
thing. Unfortunately, about 25% of dogs do not react to recordings of storms.
Also, it is not possible to start a desensitization program during the summer
months since the regular thunderstorms will interfere with the program.
Counterconditioning, such as playing with the animal with a special toy when
a storm starts, may be beneficial to some dogs that have only minor storm fear.
It can teach them to associate the "bad" stimulus with something "good".
Many owners actually compound their pet’s problem by trying to reassure the
pet when it is experiencing a severe fear or panic reaction. Unfortunately, the
animal may interpret this attention as a reward for the abnormal behavior,
which will only reinforce the animal’s fear.
It is very important that an owner never punishes their animal for exhibiting
noise phobia or for any destruction that the animal may cause while it is in the
panicked state. It serves no purpose and will not prevent the problem from
Fortunately, there are several medicines available to help dogs with noise
phobia. Sedatives such as acepromazine and chlorpromazine are longer acting
and can be given in the morning if storms are predicted and the owner is not
going to be home during the day. The human antianxiety drugs diazepam
(Valium [R]) and alprazolam (Xanax [R]) are also excellent choices but work
best if given 30-60 minutes before the storm or a fireworks exhibit. Since these
drugs are metabolized by the liver and kidneys a chemistry profile should be
run first before starting any medications, especially in older animals.
|Back to Articles Home Page