Thunder claps, dropped dishware, sirens and loudspeakers can cause some dogs to wildly flee, hyperventilate, desperately howl and bark or even lose control of their bodily functions. A new drug recently approved by the FDA hopes to ease some of these sound anxieties with a unique gel medication. Before we reveal this breaking advancement, let’s review noise phobia in dogs.
For the majority of noise phobic dogs, the cause is rooted in some sort of psychological trauma. They may associate a loud bang with an injury or punishment or simply fail to comprehend that distant booms pose no real threat. New or previously unexperienced intense sounds may trigger an instinctive urge to flee or physiological stress response.
Older dogs may experience changes in their hearing that also contribute to noise phobia. Certain injuries or chronic and severe ear infections may alter sound recognition and lead to behavioral problems. Rarely, brain or ear tumors can cause sudden, inexplicable aversions to particular volumes or tones. If your dog becomes afraid of certain sounds, the first step is to contact your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition and explore the origins of a noise phobia.
During the past decade, we’ve made significant progress in aiding dogs suffering from noise phobia using:
Behavioral modification techniques, especially calming and “safe place” strategies
Compressive clothing such as “calming shirts”
Natural remedies including stress-relieving pheromones and relaxing lavender
Pharmacological interventions, most notably SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac (fluoxetine)) combined with behavioral modification
Any and all of these in a variety of combination have eased anxiety in innumerable canines confronting noise phobia. But what about the dog that only rarely experiences a fear of loud noises? Help may be in the form of this new prescription medication.
SILEO® (dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel), is the first and only medication approved by the U.S. FDA for treatment of noise aversion in dogs. This drug is particularly useful because it doesn’t sedate the pet when used at label dosages. It’s also unique because it’s a gel you squirt along the cheek and gums. No struggling to pop a pill or conceal a capsule.
SILEO is designed to work when you need it. If you know fireworks will begin at a certain time, administer SILEO 30 to 60 minutes beforehand to help ease fear and anxiety. According to studies, each dose lasts two to three hours, long enough to get through most firework celebrations and summer thunderstorms. If necessary, you can repeat the drug five times, providing up to 15 hours of help.
SILEO isn’t for every dog and won’t help in every situation. The FDA label cautions against using SILEO in dogs with “severe cardiovascular disease, respiratory, liver or kidney diseases, or in conditions of shock, severe debilitation or stress due to extreme heat, cold or fatigue or in dogs hypersensitive to dexmedetomidine... .” You also shouldn’t give SILEO to a pregnant, lactating or dog used for breeding.
For me, the pain of witnessing a dog in fear is nearly unbearable. I’m constantly seeking ways to remedy those fears and anxieties. SILEO is another weapon I’ll use to fight for my pet patients in the war against suffering from behavioral problems. If your dog is one of the millions suffering from noise phobia, talk to your veterinarian. Our pets deserve our best efforts to make them as comfortable and happy as possible, especially when it comes to fear of the unknown.