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Canine Tranquilization for Noise Phobia

Noise Phobia is defined as an excessive and unreasonable fear response to specific loud noises.

This is more common in canines than felines.  In dogs, the most common noise phobias are to fireworks and thunder.  Less common are fear responses to trucks or motorcycles.  One dog was even reported to be fearful of quacking migrating ducks.

If the phobia is time predictable – like the fireworks on the Fourth of July – then the simplest solution is to sedate the pet for a few hours on days when fireworks are expected.  Drugs like Prozac are not helpful because they need to be administered for 1-3 weeks before they begin to work.

Veterinary Supervised Drug Therapy:  For short-term tranquilization, most veterinarians use a drug called Acepromazine ("Ace").  It is available in tablet and injectable form, and although more expensive, the injectable form can be reformulated into an oral liquid.  The tablets come in many sizes.  The most common are 5, 10, and 25 mg/tablet.  State laws require the pet has to have been examined within 12 months to receive this drug.

Side Effects:  Ace is a very safe drug that has a few side effects.  The most important is…

"Don't use this drug in pets with seizure disorders."

It doesn't cause seizures, but if the pet ALREADY has epilepsy it increases the possibility of a seizure.

The second important side effect is sedation.  Most dogs look "drugged" for 8-12 hours after consuming the medication, and minor effects may linger for 24 hours as the drug is gradually eliminated in the urine.

A beneficial side effect is reducing vomiting.  Therefore, Ace is also used for motion-sickness.

Dose:  The label dose for Ace is "0.25-1.0 mg per lb body weight. Repeat as necessary."  This means that if the dog weighs 50 pounds, the dose range would be from 12.5 to 50 mg, which is quite a range.  Many dogs do quite well at doses smaller than the label suggests.  In general, younger and older dogs need less medication.  More fearful dogs need higher doses.  Some breeds (e.g. Chows) seem to be resistant to the drug and require the high end of the dose.  The best plan is to start at the low end of the dose range, and test the response on a day before you actually need it.

Onset:  It usually takes 1-2 hours after you give the drug, to see its effect.  Peak effect is at about 3 hours after administration.  Giving it with some food is a good idea, but not required.  However, if the dog is already scared, the digestive process is slowed, so it may take 4 hours or longer to see effects.  Therefore, "give it before you need it" which is ideally about 1-2 hours before any fireworks.

Frequency:  The drug can be repeated as needed, but not within 2 hours, because you can't see what you already will get.  Most people repeat after 8-12 hours if needed.

Other Behavior Issues:  If your pet has behavior issues in addition to noise phobia, such as separation anxiety, aggression, housesoiling, or destruction, we now offer behavior consultations to handle and resolve these concerns.  Call the hospital to make an appt.

...::::::: Copyright 2000-Present  All Rights Reserved by Rolan Tripp, DVM  and Susan Tripp, MS, Animal Behavior Network and Associates :::::::...