Natural Relief For Dogs That Suffer From Thunderstorm & Fireworks Anxiety

Summer is a wonderful time for dogs and humans alike with more hours of daylight, better weather to enjoy walks and time outdoors, and an increase in exercise and quality time.  Summer unfortunately carries with it a dark side that is very frightening and even panic inducing to many dogs: thunderstorms and fireworks.

The barometric pressure drops, static electricity, and of course noise associated with thunderstorms combine to terrify many dogs.  The constant barrage of fireworks blown off in the evening on and around July 4th are also often terrifying.  Here in Florida where I live and practice veterinary medicine, we almost always have a strong thunderstorm every afternoon and fireworks are legal, which makes for a rather prolonged pre and post July 4th nightly fireworks serenade.  Summer here can be especially stressful at times for many of our canine kids.

Thundershirt

When this invention first came out years ago, all I could think of was how silly it was and how consumers can be duped into buying anything.  Over time, however, one credible client after another came in proclaiming that it really helped.

The Thundershirt is a vest that fits snugly with uniform pressure throughout the trunk of a dog.  It thereby creates a swaddling type affect on the dog similar to that which a human infant experiences when placed in a swaddle.

With so many success stories, having a Labrador Retriever that suffers severe thunderstorm and noise anxiety, I decided to give a a try (86 pounds of pure panic is not fun for Bernie or his human family).  On the directions, it states that the shirt may not work until the fourth or fifth use and to make sure you use it at least this many times before judging the product.  For Bernie, I did not see any improvement at first, but clearly saw a marked difference on the fourth use and thereafter.

However, be careful and do not make the mistake of leaving it on all of the time, as it can create a refractory effect where the dog is no longer influenced by the vest.  Use it only in anticipation of times of stress, then remove after the stressful element has passed (storm, vet visit, evening of fireworks, etc.).

I cannot say that my Lab and many other dogs that use thunderstorms are completely without stress after its application, but it most certainly take some edge off, often eliminating the need for pharmaceutical sedation.  Combined with another canine anti-stress innovation below, it can be especially effective.

Pheromone Therapy

One good strategy to maximize the efficacy of the Thundershirt is to spray it down with a soothing pheromone.  A pheromone is a hormone that is secreted by animals that goes airborne and is detected by smell.

Lactating female dogs secrete a pheromone during milk let down to calm and soothe her puppies so that they will relax and nurse effectively.  The scent is imperceptible to humans.  Pharmaceutical company Ceva isolated this pheromone and literally put it in a bottle in a product called Adaptil.  It can be used as a spray that lasts for 6-8 hours or a plug in diffuser that constantly covers a 700 square foot area with the scent.

The diffuser can get a bit pricey so I find the best use of Adaptil is to use the spray to spray down the Thundershirt in anticipation of a thunderstorm or an evening of fireworks.  I have also seen it work quite well for dogs that experience anxiety for vet visits or travel anxiety in a car or airplane.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

When It Is Advisable To Supplement Dogs With Vitamin C And When It Is Not

Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, a compound that is found naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables and commonly seen as a dietary supplement.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant compound, meaning that it is in a class of compounds that absorbs and removed free radicals that can do damage to cells and tissues of the body.  For this reason, antioxidants are commonly referred to as biological sponges.

Vitamin C also plays a significant role in boosting the immune system and is clearly proven to help protect mammals from infectious disease and to hasten recovery from infectious disease.  How this occurs in complex, but in short, vitamin C directly influences the release of immune messenger molecules involved in summoning and activating the protective cellular defenses of the immune systen against infectious disease.

Returning to its antioxidant activity, vitamin C also reduces oxidative stress that weakens the body during periods of not only infectious disease, but disease in general, including cancer and autoimmune disease; that also cause oxidative stress on the body.  The reduction of oxidative stress helps to relieve the impact of disease on cells and tissues and strengthen the patient, making vitamin C with few exceptions, a cornerstone supplement of choice for patient that are battling cancer and other chronic diseases.

Where dogs and people differ significantly with regard to vitamin C is that people cannot manufacture vitamin C, whereas dogs do.  People need to receive their vitamin C exogenously via diet and suffer poor health and disease when they do not.

Dogs, on the other hand, do not need to take in dietary vitamin C because they can synthesize their own.  However, not all dogs manufacture vitamin C equally and many even young adult dogs that are subsequently prone to infectious disease benefit from supplementation in the diet.  Many senior dogs lack in their vitamin C production as they age and I generally recommend choosing senior diets that have vitamin C added or directly adding  vitamin C to the diet via nutritional supplements.

Here is where we have to be careful with vitamin C.  It is a crucial nutrient involved in the building of connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, cartilage) and bones.  Thus, with few exceptions, I generally recommend against supplementing puppies with extra vitamin C.

One may wonder why vitamin C is a bad idea to supplement puppy diets since it such an integral component to the building of bone and connective tissue, something it would seem puppies would benefit from.  However, the body often works in what is known as reflex inhibition.  If vitamin C is supplemented in the canine body that is designed to synthesize its own vitamin C, the body will often suppress it own intrinsic vitamin C production in presence of excess exogenously supplemented vitamin C.  By subsequently hindering a puppy’s intrinsic ability to manufacture its own vitamin C, supplementing it could lead to reflex vitamin C deficiency and hinder proper bone and connective tissue development.  We may also potentially hinder its ability to make its own vitamin C permanently.

Thus, we always must be careful to balance the need for vitamin C supplementation in dogs with the patient’s breed, overall health, and age.  I would strongly advise against taking it upon yourself to start vitamin C supplementation for your dog without consulting with a veterinarian.  Vitamin C can be beneficial to a dog’s health but if not taken under the appropriate circumstances, it has the potential to cause harm.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.