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December 13, 2011 / Jackie H. Burns

Holiday Stresses for Dogs

Dog stressed by Christmas?

Yes, even dogs feel holiday stress!

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings warm memories and pleasure for people, but we all know this time of year can be stressful as well.  Our own stress can impact our pets.  There are visitors, travel and sometimes novel foods.  And in South Carolina, you can count on lots of fireworks!

For dogs that are mildly to moderately stressed by holiday events, Dr. Burns recommends the DAP pheromone line of products.  DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone.   This pheromone is a hormone-like compound that dogs can sense (but we can’t).   DAP is a synthetic version of a pheromone that nursing mothers give off to calm their puppies.

DAP products come in several forms:

  • DAP Collars are like flea collars.  They are odorless and go wherever your dogs goes.  For a dog on the go, these are an ideal choice
  • DAP Spray may be sprayed on bedding in a pet-taxi or on your dog’s clothes or on a bandana that your dog wears.   Another good choice if you travel with your dog
  • DAP Diffusers plug into the wall.  If there are specific places your dog gets stressed out, a diffuser keeps that location covered with calming pheromone.   For instance, if your dog is stressed out by having to stay in the laundry room when company comes, plug a diffuser in that area.

DAP products help with stress from various anxiety-inducing situations and also with separation anxiety and noise phobias, but for dogs with moderate to severe anxiety, whether it is general anxiety, separation anxiety or noise phobia, Dr. Burns recommends medications that alter serotonin levels in your dog’s brain.

“Anxiety is an uncontrollable irrational fear,” she says.  “Why let your dog suffer when there is ‘better living through chemistry’?”

Her drug of choice for dogs is clomipramine, a non-drowsy once-a-day medication.  But she warns that clomipramine may take 2 to 4 weeks to get into your dog’s system and begin to modify fearful behavior.

Another important component to canine anxiety is how we react to our dog when he is anxious.

“Often people unconsciously ‘reward’ anxious behavior by trying to pet, hold or soothe the dog.  In effect, they are giving the dog positive reinforcement for behaving in an anxious manner.  We have to retrain ourselves not to do this,” Dr. Burns says.  “There are also ways to build your dog’s confidence and retrain her to be less anxious.”

For more information, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Burns, call (864) 984-2365.

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