Recently, Dr. White had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Giselle Medina of Consumer Reports about 4th of July fireworks and their effect on family pets.
Q • Is it normal for dogs and cats to be anxious or sensitive to loud noises? How sensitive is their hearing?
A • Yes it is. Dog and cat ears are shaped in such a way that they “funnel” sound making their hearing much better than that of people. Loud sounds, like fireworks, music, etc. are perceived differently by them, possibly inciting anxiety responses.
Q • What causes them to be anxious? Why is it so important for pet owners to prepare their pets for this holiday?
A • Like people, animals have a wide range of emotions; joy, excitement, depression, and anxiety. Anxiety can be correlated to survival instincts and when they hear a loud and/or unexpected sound it can trigger this response. Anxiety is our brain telling us that there’s potential danger and we need to be on guard. To alleviate your pet’s potential stress, it’s very important to prepare for any holiday, especially if your pet has exhibited noise phobia in the past.
Q • How do firework displays affect dogs and cats emotionally? Any specific examples?
A • The visual aspect of firework displays alone is unlikely to affect your dog or cat emotionally; but because they create associations, the sight of fireworks may alert them, triggering a pre-emptive anxiety response to the sound they expect.
Q • What are some examples of a dog or cat reacting to fireworks?
A • If you’ve ever been around a dog or cat with noise phobia, you’ll know it’s not fun for them or for you. Barking/hissing, hiding, shaking, pacing, whining, destructive behavior, panting, and licking are some of the many symptoms your pet may have of the fireworks.
Q • Have you had an experience with a dog or cat about fireworks or loud noise anxiety? How would you calm them?
A • Absolutely. What may work for one pet, may not work for another. Thunder jackets, and pet coats that apply pressure, can sometimes be of help in comforting them. Reducing the sound as much as possible, and putting pillows and a blanket over their cage can also create a sense of security. Giving the medication SILEO (dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel) has proven to be very effective in reducing noise phobia in dogs. It’s also the first FDA-approved treatment for dogs with noise aversion.
Q • What are some specific medications, remedies, or even products that pet owners should use to help calm their pets?
A • Sileo is our go-to medication for giving your dog noise reprieve. Sileo can be administered as needed for noise anxiety. Trazodone, Prozac, and Gabapentin are medications that have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in animals and humans in a variety of situations.
Q • For medication, how is it administered? (i.e. should it be given before the fireworks start? what’s the dosage?)
A • To the official website – “SILEO is formulated as a gel that is absorbed into your dog’s body when you apply it to the mucous membranes between your dog’s cheek and gums. Dexmedetomidine (the active ingredient) calms your dog by preventing or reducing specific reactions in the nervous system”
Medications like Gabapentin, Trazodone, and Prozac often come in pill form and can be administered orally. Depending on your veterinarian or pharmacy, you may also have the option of going with liquid or chewable tablets.
Q • Have you gotten a lot of pet owners asking about introducing CBD oils to their pets? If so, which pet-friendly CBD oils do you recommend, and how does that oil/remedy work?
A • Though we’ve had a few pet owners ask us about CBD supplements to help with stress/anxiety reduction it’s not our go-to recommendation for treatment. CBD has proven to be very helpful with people but we feel that there isn’t enough research and definitive proof of the long/short-term effects of feeding your pet cannabinoid products. We feel that there are other alternatives that have had more research, trial, and testing that are safer for your pets.
Q • Do you think it’d be best to first train your pet before getting medications prescribed or go to your vet first to get medication for your pet? Why?
A • We always recommend training your dog and if able, your cat. Going to your veterinarian is the best and safest way to get Sileo. A doctor will be able to appropriately determine, the dosage, and severity of your pet’s noise phobia. This lets them make an informed decision on whether to supplement with other medications. Training, however, is not necessary for the administration of Sileo.
-Dr. Anthony White
Photos taken and provided by: Heaton Johnson V, Marketing Director