Albuquerque Journal Article – Save your pup from balloon botheration

hot air balloon

Balloons Fiesta is a great spectacle for us, but it’s not much of a wingding for pets who freak-out from those cosmic monsters leering and looming over them. Even the far-off hiss of a propane burner or a multi-colored speck in the distance can trigger overwhelming terror for dogs who’ve logged a few frightful fiestas.

Phobias like this are not logical. Dogs with this irrational fear haven’t been physically assaulted by balloons but like humans with unfounded anxieties, they need special consideration. Hiding, trembling, and nervous panting indicate serious misery.

Simple avoidance will reduce the risk of a balloon-phobic dog’s head inflating into a special shape. Let him outside for his morning constitutional early-before the space aliens launch. Prevent an indoor mind-bending experience by lowering the blinds and playing relaxing classical music or download scientifically developed music for dogs, called Through a Dog’s Ear. A noisy fan or recordings of white, pink, or brown noise may also help. Obedience commands can shift her focus to earning interactions and food rewards.

Some dogs become hypervigilant, standing warily in the doorway, scanning the sky before cautiously venturing into the perilous territory of their own backyards. You can diminish this problem with a comfortable face covering, called a Thunder Cap.

Never force a wigged-out pet outside. Overwhelming panic would only intensify the fear she already associates with those sights and sounds. Kindness matters. If you laugh or ridicule, the relationship you cherish can suffer. And avoid the tranquilizer acepromazine. This drug sedates but does little to reduce anxiety.

There is better living through modern chemistry. Freaked-out pets can take trazodone, a prescription antianxiety medication, every 8-12 hours. Less severe cases may do fine with shorter acting alprazolam or lorazepam (safer for cats). A quick acting antianxiety medication called Sileo is intended specifically for noise phobic dogs. Available in a gel, you administer it between the lower lip and gum. These are effective medications that can be safely used together to reduce this threat to animal welfare.

Take control right from the start of Albuquerque’s signature event to prevent your dog’s angst from worsening every year. Your veterinarian can prescribe the right treatment.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.