Animal Health: Dog's Fear of Thunder, Dogs with Ear Infections, Headshaking in Horses and More

Curing canine fear of thunderstorms, preventing yeast infections in dogs' ears, how to deworm a horse, headshaking horses, using antibiotics to cure lame sows, using microchips to permanently identify pets.

| October/November 1995

By this time, I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful fall. We have been getting some intriguing questions sent to us and I am hoping to receive many more prior to the holiday mail rush. It seems reasonable to focus one of the upcoming issues on behavior problems alone as I have received so many questions dealing with animal behavior and related problems. It's fulfilling to me as veterinarian to realize that so many individuals are attempting to find solutions to their animals’s health and behavior problems. I’ll start this issue with a question concerning thunder phobia in dogs, a common behavior problem this time of the year.

Dear Andrea:
Our German shepherd, Matilda, has always had a fear of thunderstorms. She becomes so agitated that we've considered using tranquilizers just to keep her from laying waste to the house. Do you have any suggestions that are a bit less drastic?

—Jean Simonez
Eugene, OR

Dear Jean:
Many dogs experience fear of thunder, firecrackers, gunshots, and other loud noises. It is not uncommon for these animals to have such stress and anxiety that they endanger the welfare of others and cause property damage while reacting. One way to deal with the phobia of thunder is to tape record a storm occurring. Test to see if the dog will react to this as he does to the real thing. If he does, let some time elapse (one or two weeks) before attempting the following:

Teach the dog to lie down and stay on a favorite rug. Play the recording at very low (inaudible) volume. After five minutes, increase the volume so the thunder is barely audible. If the dog remains calm, give him a food reward. If the dog becomes uncomfortable, try to soothe him.

If the animal becomes very upset, turn the recording down until he relaxes. Proceed with increases in the tape volume very slowly until the dog learns to tolerate the noise, offering a food reward each time the animal remains calm. The whole session should mimic a thunderstorm, so try to limit the listening to under a half hour. Over a period of weeks, repeat the maneuver in different locations, some dark, others with bright lights being turned on and off. In addition, play the tape softly during exercise and at meals, rewarding the animal if no outbursts occur. Drugs may help decrease the anxiety of this desensitizing process but should be used only on maniacal animals.

Dear Andrea:
Our golden retriever, Miguel, gets multiple yeast infections in his ears. We are constantly trying to clean them but the problems recur. Why?

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