Phobia of Celestial Assault
Balloons Fiesta is 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. 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.
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 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 new medication called Sileo is intended specifically for noise phobic dogs. Available in a gel, you can place it between the 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 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 or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. 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 facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.