Avoid the Fear Triggers; Reduce the Anxiety
Balloon Fiesta is great fun for us, but it’s not much of a party for pets who freak out from those cosmic monsters leering and looming over them. The far-off hiss of a propane burner or a multi-colored speck in the distance can trigger overwhelming terror.

There’s nothing logical about phobias. 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 are indicators of real 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 classical music. A noisy fan or recordings of white, pink, or brown noise may also help. Some nervous Nellie’s can be distracted with games. 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 venturing into the perilous territory of their own backyards.  You can diminish this problem by making the multicolored UFOs difficult for your frightened dog to recognize. A comfortable face covering, called a Thunder Cap, reduces distance vision and maybe the heebie jeebies too.

Here is what not to do: Don’t force a wigged-out pet outside to “face her fears”.  Overwhelming panic can only intensify the terror a dog associates with those sights and sounds. Don’t laugh or ridicule. If you humiliate your dog 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 new medication called Sileo is intended specifically for noise phobias. Available in a gel, you can place it between your dog’s lower lip and gum.

These are effective medications that can be safely used together to reduce an important threat to animal welfare. Take control right from the get-go to prevent this problem from worsening every year. Your veterinarian can prescribe the right treatment.