Treating Scared Dogs

Celebrating our nation's birthday is a grand event - good food, parties, spending time with friends/family, and FIREWORKS!

I'm all for celebrating and having fun, and have enjoyed my share of fireworks in the past, however some members of my family do not do well on July 4th, or any other day where there are loud or high-pitched noises, and so I generally spend my day tending to them.

The family members with noise issues? My border collies, who DO NOT LIKE THE BOOM-BOOMS! One dog tries to hide, the other crawls up my leg; they both will pant very heavily, get wheezy or start coughing, sometimes vomit or have diarrhea, can't seem to think properly, and basically look to me to "save" them. It's sad.

Since so many dogs get pretty freaked out by noises of any kind, I figured this would be a good time to share how I treat my dogs when they get scared -- I'm sure there are a number of other ways you can temper these issues, but these things work for us, so here goes!

Note: The remedies I describe will also work for cats, I only have experience using them on dogs!

HOMEOPATHICS -  Ones I use most frequently and that bring the quickest relief for my dogs:
  • Ignatia amara - This is my go-to remedy any time they get upset/fearful of "stuff". This is one of the chief hysteria remedies, for grief and emotional upset; easily excitable; quickly change from happy to freaked out, with physical symptoms ensuing; alert, nervous, apprehensive, trembling from fear; hiccups and vomiting; diarrhea from emotional upset; hacking, dry cough; twitchy while at rest. Ignatia stops the mental anguish and helps them deal with the issue, doesn't "cure" it, just helps them shift out of blinding fear and brings them back to reality, allowing for their natural coping mechanism to come into play.
  • Kali phosphoricum - I use this one primarily at night for that wheezy-breathing and constant jerky, "running in their sleep" thing when I know it's due to something that's upset them earlier in the day. Kali phos is for stress or nervousness due to excitement, overwork, worry or anxiety (works really well for people when you're "at your limit"). When the sympathetic nervous system is ramped up. Calms them down immediately and we can get to sleep.
  • Chamomila (chamomile) and Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) - I might give one or both of these after the initial treatment, if I feel they aren't symptomatic enough for Ignatia or Kali p., but still need a little help.

NOTE: As with all homeopathic remedies, use the smallest dose possible, and MORE IS NOT BETTER! Giving more than what's needed may result in exacerbation of symptoms. Give your animal's body time to integrate the remedy before giving additional doses.  One pillule is generally all I give my dogs - their bodies generally know what to do after that!

FLOWER ESSENCES -  I rarely use flower essences as my dogs do really well on homeopathics - they work very quickly and they're easy to administer.  That being said, flower essences offer perhaps more longer-term corrective treatment that you can administer to strengthen your animals' physical/emotional constitution.

  • Rescue Remedy (use Kids' or dog version - no alcohol). This is the most commonly used flower remedy, being a combination of five different flower essences: Star of Bethlehem, Clematis, Cherry Plum, Rock Rose and Impatiens.  Each essence works well on its own, but together they create a powerful remedy - it will relieve your dog's panic, calm and soothe them, and, like Ignatia, gets them out of that crazed mode so their natural coping mechanism can kick in.
  • Rock Rose (single essence) - Relieves deep fears, terror and panic. For when your dog makes "a mountain out of a molehill".
  • Mimulus - For fear of known things. Restores self-confidence and courage. For fear of darkness, thunder, loud noises, etc.
  • Aspen - For fear of unknown things. Will be timid, run and hide or cower for any reason, as if they think something terrible is going to happen, but just don't know what.

St. John's Wort is wonderful for relieving anxiety, and helping their little adrenals to calm down.  You can use a regular tincture, just put drops in their water/food and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to let the alcohol dissipate.

Chamomile - tea (or tincture) to help calm your stressed pet, and help them relax. Add to their food/water in the morning and potentially throughout the day.

Vigorous play - I make sure to play A LOT with my dogs, all day long, to help them release their nervous energy and give their minds something else to think about.  Border collies are very focused animals, and tend toward obsessive-compulsive behavior, making it a real challenge to shift them out of fear mode.  Ball, frisbee and water play are great physical stress relievers for them, and gives their tweaky brains something else to focus on!

Brushing and massage - Yes, I pamper my dogs, so what?! Brushing helps calm them down, and helps me deal with the hair they lose from being freaked out; massage, well, need I say more?

None of these remedies are going to solve the entire problem, but should afford some relief to help animals through "trying" times -- can't hurt to try!

Lots of love to your furry friends!

  • LOTS of personal experience, and.....
  • Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs, Don Hamilton
  • The Veterinarians' Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs, Martin Zucker
  • The Healing Touch for Dogs, Dr. Michael W. Fox (this book is great if you want to turn your dog into a drooling pile of mush!)

Content copyright Yvonne H. Laine