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Thunderphobia worsening?

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Am I remembering correctly that in some/many dogs thunderphobia worsens with age? :rolleyes:

 

Maggie is 11yo and has always been nervous during storms. She used to pant, pace, and try to hide, but as long as she had a small dark place to go she'd be ok. Unfortunately the last 3 or 4 storms have showed a disconcerting new behavior: peeing and pooping (combined with baby gate jumping). This most recent storm happened today while DH was at work and while Maggie was at our new house (she came up with me on Saturday, so this would be about 3 days in the new house). DH came home to a knocked down baby gate, poop and pee in the dining room, pee on our papasan chair cushion, and a set of blinds knocked down. :D

 

She has a Thundershirt, so I'm having DH put that on her every time he leaves the house from now on, but I have a couple of questions for those who have been through this:

 

- Should I be talking about meds with the vet or will it hurt to wait and see if the Thundershirt and acclimation to the house helps? If I should think about meds what should I ask the vet about? I know Ace is a big nono.

 

- Anyone have any success with DAP/Comfort Zone for thunderphobia in a dog that it doesn't seem to help when it comes to confinement anxiety? I'm thinking it's not likely to help but figured I'd ask.

 

- Any major help/solution that I'm not thinking of?

 

Thanks!

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Gosh, strange that you should ask this right now. I am up with Vala, who's been dealing with a weirdly worse-than-ever case of thunderphobia for the last hour. It was like she couldn't find a safe spot: she kept going intermittently between her kennel, the bathroom, and jumping up with us on the bed. Problem is right now she's not supposed to be this active. But I don't want to lock her somewhere and go to sleep because I'm afraid she'll hurt the house or herself. Her frantic-ness may have something to do with the fact that she's pushing day ten after her heartworm treatment and is on meds. Currently the only thing that helps is standing *in* the bathtub (but she still doesn't feel safe there, so won't stay), or right now she is lying beneath my feet in the cubby under my desk (half asleep, finally). She was digging frantically at the floor of her kennel in the bedroom, but I didn't have the heart to put her in the back kennel away from us (what I usually do when she practices that bad behavior). I think she might have a heart attack if I left her back there alone to dig at the kennel floor indefinitely. I mean, her heartworms are could be dying *right now* (I checked with the doctor and day ten was when I had to bring her in after the last shot) and I know she feels safer around us. At least right now at the floor beneath my feet in the cubby under my desk she's calm. Only problem: I'm up. Excuse me, while I check the weather channel. I, too, am interested in management strategies for thunderphobic dogs. Usually I can just let her run and hide in whatever safe place she decides on, but right now she's not supposed to get worked up, and it's been my experience that with this one problem, she goes too far over threshold to respond to behavior mod.

 

Oh but as for your situation, with Maggie--it sounds too coincidental that this is just starting in the new house, since y'all have only been there three days, and this hasn't happened (at least as far as I understand your post) before. South Carolina isn't like the southwest; storms can't be that infrequent. I'd be willing to guess she doesn't have "safe places" there yet and acclimation will help. Kinda like the reason I suspect Vala's been so panicked tonight: she doesn't feel comfortable right now, herself. One thing I've noticed about Vala is that in normal situations she feels much more safe in the bathroom, pushed up against the bathtub or commode. Something about vibrations and static diffusion, someone here said? I never did get to read the article, so I don't know how it works yet.

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I always used Xanax for my thunderphobia dogs - it was like a miracle. They just didn't even care if it was storming. It only lasts about 4 hours and you just don't get all that awful stuff that you do with ace. And the generic is really cheap.

 

I also use if for the 4th.

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Have never heard of the "thunderShirt" but having googled it (what would we do with out google??) it sounds quite interesting.. do you find it really works? Sam is fairly noise phobic and for now he hides in his crate and shakes, it's his safe spot. It would be nice to have something that might help him feel better and I would prefer to avoid medicating him as t-storms are not all that frequent here but enough in the summer that an alternative would be great!

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I agree with Mary that it seems too coincidental not to be related to the move. It could be that her stress level is already higher and the storm just sent her over the top. That said, thunderphobia can get worse with age, but I don't see anything wrong with seeing if the shirt works first. I might also consider confining her to a smaller area (for her own safety) when you're not there, for the time being.

 

J.

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Have never heard of the "thunderShirt" but having googled it (what would we do with out google??) it sounds quite interesting.. do you find it really works? Sam is fairly noise phobic and for now he hides in his crate and shakes, it's his safe spot. It would be nice to have something that might help him feel better and I would prefer to avoid medicating him as t-storms are not all that frequent here but enough in the summer that an alternative would be great!

 

It actually does help Dean.

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When Jack developed his separation anxiety, he chewed up my front door, window frames, and blinds. He went on Clomicalm to help him cope and one of the pluses was that he was able to handle thunderstorms better. Instead of barking and running around, he curls up in a very tight ball and only growls at the bad claps of thunder.

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Thanks for the input so far!

 

Several "catches" I forgot to include above:

 

- Maggie cannot be crated or otherwise confined to a small area due to other anxiety issues.

- DH and I are out of the house for more than 4 hours at a time so I'm not sure Xanax is going to work - the storms around here really seem to pop up quickly and unpredictably.

 

The Thundershirt seems to help, but only if it's on and I was originally not sure it was good to leave it on all day every day - we'll be trying that though.

 

The worsening started this storm season (about 6 weeks ago?), the moving event was just this weekend, so it may explain this most recent bad reaction, but not the whole pattern of worsening.

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Yes, they do get worse with age, much worse in some cases. If you haven't tried Shen Calmer or Clomacalm I'd say try them both. I found the Shen Calmer worked the best. You use it daily, powder form in the food and you can start high and adjust as needed as the season wears off.

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I've heard of Clomicalm, but not Shen Calmer - what is it?

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Chinese Herb. Your vet will have to order it as it only comes from one place, they make it in Reddick Florida - Shen Calmer

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I had to call my vet today because it's storming again and she was freaking out, and they told me to give her Benadryl, to keep her quiet, right now while she can't get excited. She does seem quieter right now. She's actually sleeping through mild thunder rolling, but only in the cubby beneath my large built-in desk, and only while I'm sitting at it, so she feels doubly safe, protected by both me and furniture. Has anyone else ever had a vet suggest Benadryl?

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Has anyone else ever had a vet suggest Benadryl?

Yep, Benedryl is my vet's go-to OTC medication for mild anxiety (separation anxiety, thunderphobia, etc.), and one of my local friends has also had it suggested by her vet. Unfortunately for us, it hasn't seemed to have an effect on our dogs, but I'm glad to hear it seems to be helping Pan.

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Here is the link to Karen Overall's article on the subject: Storm Phobias

 

Excerpt:

 

They will only worsen with exposure, and the rate at which they worsen depends on the neurochemistry of the dog and the severity and unpredictability of the storms.

 

ETA: Here is another Karen Overall article you might want to read: Treating anxiety is different than managing the problem

 

These two articles, written for vets, discuss the use of xanax, clomicalm, and behavioral modification, so are very relevant to this thread. The second article discusses defecation and urination as a response to anxiety. Disclaimers: (1) note the publication date of the articles; (2) I don't know Dr. Overall; and (3) I have never treated a dog for anxiety. I merely offer these links as food for thought, not to advocate any particular strategy.

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Yep, Benedryl is my vet's go-to OTC medication for mild anxiety (separation anxiety, thunderphobia, etc.), and one of my local friends has also had it suggested by her vet. Unfortunately for us, it hasn't seemed to have an effect on our dogs, but I'm glad to hear it seems to be helping Pan.

 

It's Vala. But she does seem better! I couldn't take it at my desk anymore (I'm pregnant and my chair is NOT comfortable, it was killing my back), so I'm writing in a more comfortable spot. But she's followed me here, and though she's hunkered down, flattened out at my side, at least she's listening to commands not to dig and staying still and trying to sleep. She's definitely lower threshold, more like anxious, instead of panicked.

 

P.S. I love all your dogs' names!

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Here is the link to Karen Overall's article on the subject: Storm Phobias

 

Excerpt:

 

They will only worsen with exposure, and the rate at which they worsen depends on the neurochemistry of the dog and the severity and unpredictability of the storms.

 

Wow, thanks for that, Alaska. I'm going to print it out and show it to my vet. Vala has an appointment on Monday to be given the saline solution that kills any remaining larvae... Maybe we can strategize about the thunderphobia then. I hope the OP reads this too! I love Dr. Overall.

 

ETA: I have been careful not to coddle her in the past, when she was anxious during storms, but I had almost forgotten these past couple of days since she's been both panicked and sick. It was helpful to read this reminder. Maybe it'll be helpful for the OP too. Now I remember why I'm not supposed to pet her at all, and why she's calmest when I just ignore her and let her lie beside me with her nose pressed to my hip. Also, reading the second article, I'm wondering if her worsening thunderphobia isn't a result of simple lack of exercise, because we can't really exercise her or do anything but play hide and seek and mental games in the house until the 4 weeks post-heartworm shot are over. I forgot how much lack of exercise is supposed to increase general anxiety in dogs, of course, since exercise is such a part of our normal days--poor Jimmy! Man I'm glad Vala shows no signs of separation anxiety!

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It's Vala.

Aw, sorry. It's not the first time I've made that mistake, either. :rolleyes: I can't seem to read beyond the username.

 

Really glad to hear the Benedryl is making everyone in the household more comfortable tonight.

 

P.S. I love all your dogs' names!

Thanks--I wish I could take credit for at least one of them, but Johnson and Spirit arrived with their names and DH is responsible for Ody.

 

Off to check out the links Alaska provided....

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Oh that Overall article is great to have access to! I've also reviewed a few threads from the past where SoloRiver gave some good info as well so that's helping. I need to schedule an appointment for Maggie to have a bump rechecked so perhaps I can also talk to my vet. She uses both conventional and holistic medicines so perhaps she'll have already heard of the Shen Calmer.

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Both my BC's are afraid of thunder. The older one more than the younger. The older one freaks out when the fire alarm goes off when the wife cooks. :rolleyes: She hides in the basement as far from the kitchen as possible.

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Not much to add here. I tried an Anxiety Wrap with two different thunder-phobic dogs. One it might have helped some; the other not at all. I tried various OTC calming remedies - all with about the same "maybe it's helping but I can't really tell" results. Benedryl helped one of the two fairly well; the other, not so much (and this "not so much" one isn't the "not so much" one from the wrap!). Neither one was ever bad enough for me to try prescription meds.

 

Yes, my older dog got worse as she got older.

Now she's 14, and doesn't hear so well. She KNOWS when a really big storm rolls in....but misses a lot of the distant ones. Small thing to be thankful for...I'm much more thankful that she's still here at 14!

 

diane

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Having trouble keeping Vala quiet... it's storm season here in Louisiana. She had a terrible day! She hasn't eaten much at all, and she threw up a bunch of phlegm in the morning (immune-system processed dead heartworm, I've always guessed), then had a fit of panicking and trying-to-dig when it started storming in the afternoon, which the Benadryl didn't help a bit... It's going to storm in the afternoon all summer. I think part of the problem may be she's stir crazy, so I took her for a short walk this evening, but I also took her to the vet and the prescribed acepromazine, which Dr. Overall says is not ideal, but they didn't even mention Xanax and it wasn't my regular vet (he was booked, couldn't take emergency visit, so I took an appointment with one of his mentees) and I said we'd try this. It is an extremely low (cat-safe) dose. After that and the short walk, she is sleeping in the kitchen now, but it ain't storming anymore. We also talked about Clomicalm because apparently in Louisiana short term drugs aren't much help (when it rains on and off all day, every day, and sometimes for days, especially during hurricane season--and this hurricane season is supposed to be serious). I'm thinking we're going to try Clomicalm once we get through the worst of this heartworm business, if her nerves don't improve with the reduced stress and increased exercise. She is a poster child for Clomicalm; as I understand, it's for dogs with precisely her sweet, sweet, but nervous and clingy temperament.

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Honestly there's no way I'd use Ace with a phobic dog - it has no anxiety-relieving properties and I've heard a number of stories first hand from people who experienced worsening symptoms after using it with their phobic dogs.

 

It appears that we have a contributing factor in my story: Maggie was diagnosed with a UTI today! She's on meds for 10 days and then a recheck to see if the infection and some crystals that could be related clear up or if we need to do some more investigative work.

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Guest maya's mom

We got the Thundershirt, and have used it twice now for storms. I am not sure how I feel about it though. I feel like when I put it on Maya, she is a little more calm than normal when the storms start. She doesn't try to hide as much, and she isn't panting. But as they progress in duration and intensity, she falls back into the patterns of trying to hide, panting, and just being overall very nervous. For 2nd storm, I had the shirt on her, and also got her crate out, and put it in a corner with a blanket over it. (We don't use the crate anymore, so I had to "re-introduce" it to her, but she has never had problems with crating.) She did go in it a lay down for a minute or two, but then got out and continued to look for somewhere else to go. I too am worried about storms popping up while I am at work. So maybe I would just put the shirt on her in the mornings on days when the threat is high. The shirt is made nicely and fts well and she doesn't seem to mind it being on. The only negative, is that there is A LOT of velcro on it, and the sound of that totally freaks her out! When she is already on edge b/c of a storm coming, that noise does not help!

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Mary,

 

Have you used the Ace again? Do you think it's doing anything?

 

After about three uses, we've decided we don't like it. It makes her wayyyy too loopy even at the smallest possible dose (for a cat under ten pounds--she weighs 30)... On the medicine, which is listed on the veterinary label that came with it as having anxiety reducing properties, she does seem less anxious (no panting, no shaking, and she even came out and watched movies with us on the couch one night when she was on it) but she's a rag doll for hours afterwards and I don't want to give her something that strong every night--which is how often it rains here, summers. So we're back to Benadryl. I've decided I'm going to use that and a totally neutral behavior mod-type approach for now. I talked to my husband about it last night and he reminded me I've been more emotional lately (what with the pregnancy); I also realized I've been especially worried about her getting too active during storms, right now, too, since she's finishing up heartworm treatment, and I've started to suspect my fears and concerns are part if not all of the reason she is reacting more poorly to storms now. (In the car on the way home last night, I saw lightning and my body actually tensed--thinking of her. And I said "Oh brother" aloud and my husband looked at me like I was crazy and I had to explain.) Before she was in recovery from the Immiticide shots, I just assumed she would be okay and let her hide somewhere and she was okay. So I just have to start reacting that way again. My plan now is to give her Benadryl when thunder starts, then ignore her while she hides at my feet and hangs out, but if she starts digging or any kind of frenzied panicked behavior, I'm just going to neutrally abort it by unemotionally picking her up and putting her in her safe place without saying anything. Once we are through the heartworm treatment, if she doesn't improve, we will start her on clomipramine. But we're on day 13 post-two-shot-Immiticide, and she's already thrown up once (though no fever or signs of thromboembolism), so she's got a lot going on right now internally. I think she will improve with exercise and me staying neutral and her health returning.

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