For the thousands of American dogs that suffer from noise anxiety, occasions with loud sounds and fireworks such as 4th of July and New Year's Eve are very traumatizing. Even thunderstorms, cars backfiring, and gunshots can cause severe distress. Many dogs escape their yard in their panic and become lost or even worse, injured.
Until recently, noise phobia was treated with sedatives or anti-anxiety medications. Some people found that wrapping their dog in a tight-fitting jacket helped to calm them. However, these haven't always had the desired effect and may have made affected dogs feel worse. Some sedatives did relax the dogs physically, but they still experienced the fear and anxiety – they just couldn't show it. How distressing for a dog to look calm on the outside but inside they still felt panic. Their pet parents would have no way of understanding how they were feeling.
Pet parents may now be able to manage their dog's noise phobia with a new drug named Sileo® that has recently been approved by the FDA. A New Year's Eve trial on over 180 dogs resulted in 75% of pet parents feeling their dog had a good response to treatment, compared to only 33% of those whose dogs were treated with a placebo.
Those of us with noise-phobic dogs know how hard it is to communicate with our pets when they're frightened. They don't hear our voice trying to calm them because they're so anxious. This is where Sileo® is particularly useful. It helps to calm dogs without sedating them, so they can still interact with their family without that sense of panic. The active ingredient, dexmedetomidine, works to block the production of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that's responsible for feelings of anxiety and fear. It's very easy for pet parents to administer, even for those animals that don't take tablets well; it's an oral gel that's given via a plastic syringe and absorbed through the gums. The syringe has pre-measured markings on the barrel that allow for accurate dosing. Effects can be seen within an hour and last up to three hours. If necessary, a second dose can be given after two hours. The amount to give a dog is 125 mcg/m2; the animal can be re-dosed up to five times during the noisy event.
Sileo® is only available by prescription from your veterinarian, because there are some circumstances in which it should not be used. It's not recommended for dogs with certain medical conditions, including heart or respiratory disease, or reduced liver and kidney function. It has also not been assessed in young pups under four months of age, elderly dogs, and dogs that are pregnant or feeding a litter of pups. Side effects are rare and have been listed as sleepiness, pale gums at the site of administration, and vomiting.
The best way to manage noise phobias in dogs in the long term is to desensitize them with gradual exposure to louder and louder noises while helping them to stay calm. Sileo® could very well be helpful in this process. Because it reduces anxiety while allowing dogs to remain fully alert and awake, they can better learn to cope with noise because they're not in a panicked frame of mind.