Halloween and (Noise) Phobia in Dogs

Halloween and (Noise) Phobia in Dogs

What a wonderful and long summer we have had! As we move into autumn, there might be less sun, but there are plenty of other things to look forward to. The fall season brings with it hockey, Thanksgiving Day, Halloweens, fright nights, Diwali (the Indian festival of lights), and more, alongside the shorter, chillier days.

Irrespective of the length of day, good times are always around the corner as long as we are ready for them. No animal might be better at proving this statement than dogs. Isn’t it just amazing how much they enjoy almost any kind of toy, treat, or attention? While dogs have an unparalleled love of life, they too can face anxieties and depressions of various kinds. The most common anxiety that dogs face is noise phobia, especially around Halloween.

Firecrackers, thunder, and even smoke alarms can trigger an anxiety episode in a dog sensitive to loud sounds. Generally, the signs of such phobias become evident around mid-October as neighbors may use solitary firecrackers on and off. Subtle symptoms include unexplained panting, pacing around, excessive drooling, shivering and hiding. The signs become evident during evenings when firecrackers may be used.

If a dog with noise phobia is exposed to sudden thunder or firecrackers close by, they might have a big enough anxiety attack with symptoms being comparable to seizure activity. Thus, if the early symptoms are not identified, your dog may be in for a rough time on Halloween night while you’re out with the family.

There are various treatment and management options available for pets that deal with anxieties. The gold-standard option would be to remove the offending traumatic cause. In the case of noise phobia, it is obvious that we cannot put on hold festivities and celebrations, or unpredictable thunder for that matter. The options for treating sound-related anxiety in dogs include thunder jackets, natural pheromone collars, vaporizers, antianxiety medications, and a whole lot of loving and caring. In some patients, all of the above options may need to be exercised in order to provide short-term relief leading up to Halloween. Other patients may need to be on ongoing management of such anxieties.

Some of the loveliest dogs that have obviously been well cared for since they were puppies can also be affected by noise phobia. This should not be a taboo subject; instead, awareness of the issue helps dogs immensely. If you feel your dog may be showing symptoms of anxiety of any kind, it is something that should be discussed with your veterinarian.

To summarize, if your pet shows abnormal behavior over the coming weeks or has shown abnormal behavior around loud sounds in the past, the best Halloween gift you can give him or her is an ability to handle such sounds.

Note: Always remember to consult your veterinarian before using any medications as other illness may mimic signs of anxiety.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby since 2005 and BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.