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Drugs can calm fearful pets

July 22, 2003|by JENNIFER SMITS

jennifers@herald-mail.com

Youngsters aren't the only ones who are scared of summer thunderstorms. Sometimes Fido or the family cat may be hiding under the bed in terror.

Man's best friend might even need anti-anxiety drugs to cope with the fear, said Dr. Melissa Wright, who practices at Big Spring Animal Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Wright said that anti-anxiety drugs like Acepromazine can be given to dogs and cats that are very frightened by storms.

Most drugs take about half an hour to start working, though, and therefore are not always effective if a thunderstorm comes up suddenly, she said.

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Wright said Benadryl can be given to pets before a storm because of its sedative qualities but it also takes a while to start working.

Other drugs she said can be prescribed for pets year-round, Wright said.

She said Prozac is sometimes given to reduce anxiety in pets but that it normally would not be given to an animal that's only problem is fear of storms.

"It's for animals who are scared of everything," she said.

Perhaps the best way to reduce pet anxiety during a thunderstorm is to bring animals inside to a quiet place and stay with them, Wright said. Playing music sometimes helps if it is the sound of the thunder that scares them, she said. That technique is not always effective because animals can still feel the vibrations of the thunder, Wright said.

"Reassure them that they will be OK," she said.

Carol Dague, Humane Society police officer with the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., said that thunderstorms can be dangerous for pets because they tend to get away from their owners if they are frightened. Both Dague and Wright said it is a good idea to keep animals inside during a storm if possible.

Heat stroke is also a potential danger to animals during the summer, Dague said. Animals should not be left alone in vehicles during the summer, she said. The inside of a car can reach 160 degrees in 10 minutes on a hot day, and animals can suffer from heat stroke under those conditions, she said.

If people see an animal that looks like it is in distress inside a hot car, they should look for the owner or call the police, Dague said.

Dague said that from June through September, dogs can suffer from heat stroke if left outside in the hot sun. Owners should provide plenty of water and a shady place for their pets to escape the heat, she said.

Animals should also be treated for fleas and ticks, which can carry diseases, during the summer, Wright said. She said her practice sees an increase in animals that have been hit by cars at this time of year and that pets should be kept confined and not allowed to run loose.

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