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If your dog is suddenly scared of noises, pain may be the ultimate culprit.

Research has recently delved deeper into the issue of pain in dogs revealing some interesting findings. 

Pain may ultimately be the root cause for several bizarre dog behaviors often assumed to stem from "stubbornness. "

Many sudden onset behavior problems in dogs have miraculously subsided once dogs were placed on pain medications. 

Discover how the sudden onset of noise phobias in dogs may be linked to pain after all.

Advances on Research on Dog Pain 

Research has made some great advances when it comes to recognizing pain in dogs and its emotional toll. 

In the past, dogs were believed to not feel pain in the same way humans do, whereas now, fortunately pain is fully recognized, and consequently, great emphasis is put on sparing dogs from its negative effects. 

Pain meds are now often prescribed when owners report behaviors that may be suggestive of pain such as their dogs shaking, stiffening and assuming pain-sparing positions. 

In some cases though, pain may not be readily recognized, especially when it's exhibited in uncharacteristic ways. 

Pain as a Culprit For Bizarre Dog Behaviors 

Recently, we have obtained a deeper understanding on how pain can sometimes trigger unusual behaviors in dogs. 

For example, according to research led by Mills DS et al., a dachshund's behavior of nosing of the owner, might have been a care-soliciting behavior associated with pain considering that the odd behavior disappeared when the pain was successfully managed.

In other cases, dogs who are reluctant to walk in the cold or or on icy surfaces or slippery floors, may be suffering from some form of musculoskeletal disorder.

This brings us though to the big question: how in the world can pain trigger noise phobias in dogs?

How Can Pain Trigger Noise Phobias in Dogs?

It can all happen, courtesy of a dog's associative learning, in other words, the ability to associate one event with another. 

Basically, what is likely to happen is that the dog hears a sudden noise and startles. 

In a dog who already is suffering from some form of pain, startling in response to loud noises may aggravate existing pain, especially in areas of the body where muscles are already tightened. 

This tensing of the muscles as part of a startle reflex may therefore create a mental association between the noise and pain, according to research led by Veterinary Medicine student Ana Luisa Lopesca Fagundes from Lincoln University,

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What to Do If Your Dog Has a Noise Phobia?

It's a good idea to consult with a vet. 

Sadly, a great number of dogs with noise sensitivities and phobias are not treated. This can put a big dent in their emotional wellbeing. 

A veterinarian can help your dog learn to better cope with his aversion to loud noises by offering a range of treatments. 

The first step is assessing the severity of your pet's aversion. If the fear is severe, the vet may suggest a combination of environmental management and behavior modification, possibly coupled with drug therapy.

 This can help a dog cope with the situation without losing his sense of safety.

Why Should Acepromazine Be Avoided in Dogs With Noise Phobias?

Acepromazine is a tranquilizer that works by blocking the dopamine receptors in the central nervous system. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the brain that helps regulate movement, focus and attention and emotional responses.

This blockage prevents animals from exhibiting fear and acting on it. 

At a first glance, Acepromazine may make a dog or cat look as if he's handling the fear well, when in reality, he just can’t show the signs or do anything about it, explains Jason Nicholas, graduate of The Royal Veterinary College in London, England and Chief Medical Officer of Preventive Vet.

If we put ourselves in our dog's shoes (or better, paws) it's as if we're being aware of a fearful situation, but because of the drug's dissociative effects it doesn't make any logical sense.

As Karen Overall claims "it scrambles perceptions." 

On top of this, this drug seems to increase sensitivity to noises.

Veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Karen Overall in the video below explains how dropping a hemostat on a metal table will cause an animal treated with Acepromazine to jump despite being sound asleep.

This drug is therefore counterproductive when given to dogs suffering from noise phobias. 

References:

  • Lopes Fagundes AL, Hewison L, McPeake KJ, ZulchH and Mills DS (2018) Noise Sensitivities in Dogs: An Exploration of Signs in Dogs with and without Musculoskeletal Pain Using Qualitative Content Analysis. Front. Vet. Sci.
  • Mills DS, Demontigny-Bédard I, Gruen M, Klinck MP, McPeake KJ, Barcelos AM, Hewison L, Van Haevermaet H, Denenberg S, Hauser H, Koch C, Ballantyne K, Wilson C, Mathkari CV, Pounder J, Garcia E, Darder P, Fatjó J, Levine E. Pain and Problem Behavior in Cats and Dogs. Animals (Basel). 2020 Feb

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