Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Summer Phobias & Treatment Options"

Coastal Animal Hospital-Kitty Hawk

The summer is a wonderful time for pets and owners alike. However, along with the warm sun and surf, come a lot of people.

The summertime sees the Outer Banks population swell with thousands of vacationers who come to the coast to enjoy the beautiful beaches.

It is also not uncommon to see numerous canine patients who are stressed out and exhibiting inappropriate behavior, such as compulsive property destruction, hiding, inappetence or even seizures.

Usually, these episodes are initiated by loud noises such as boisterous partygoers, fireworks, airplanes, sirens and thunderstorms. Some dogs, just as people, are more sensitive to external stimulation such as excessive or loud noise.

Often, this additional stress compulses some pets to exhibit inappropriate behaviors. Unfortunately, there are limited therapies, short of building a soundproof room in your house-which would be the ultimate sign of love.

Most doctors prescribe their nervous patients, a small supply of a sedative to be doled out on an as needed basis. These work well and provide sedation for several hours. The downside to these is that they often take 30-45 minutes to take effect and timing bottle rocket explosions and thunderstorms can be difficult.

Often we will have owners preemptively give Fido a sedative if we know severe thunderstorms are forecast or a busy weekend is upcoming, such as the fourth of July.

 Another popular class of drugs used for treating stress in dogs and humans alike are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). These drugs work by increasing the amounts of the naturally occurring serotonin in the brain, which has a calming effect. These work very well and have little or no sedative effects so the dog is able to function while taking them.

The downside is that it can take up to 30 days for the drug to achieve therapeutic levels so it is best suited to dogs which have persistent anxiety problems, such as separation anxiety, inappropriate urination or some forms of aggression.

When leaving these dogs unattended at home, it is beneficial to leave a radio or television on. This creates a calming distraction, as well as blocking lower level noise, so your pet does not hear every small pop and yell outside the home.

 A companion dog also helps dissipate any stress. Most of the dogs we see for nervous conditions are single dogs left home alone for extended periods. If you have any questions about your pets physical or mental health, please feel free to contact one of the many friendly, local veterinarians. Have a fun and safe summer! 

 Stephen M. Samson DVM 
Coastal Animal Hospital 

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