Wow. I was away from the computer for a few days and had a SLEW of queries about my last post about sound phobic dogs - I am sorry that I did not get to the questions in a more timely manner!
Sound sensitivity in dogs, especially as they age, can be a very difficult issue. As I already mentioned, the tympanic membrane (inner ear drum) is very sensitive to barometric pressure changes such as occur during thunderstorms and as such, very little is available to help alleviate a dog's discomfort with storms.
One of my most interesting work events was to be on the cusp of the advent of the Internet. Suddenly, a whole world full of canine behaviorists were able to communicate, and Spring rolled around, and we all started talking about our "Thunderstorm Dogs".
Dr. Nicolas Dodman, a British veterinary behaviorist heading Tufts' University Veterinary Behavior College, started noticing a common thread of "us" talking about all our dogs wedging themselves behind toilets, in bathtubs, and in laundry rooms. He wondered about it, and walked himself over to the physics lab to conduct electrical studies on thunder and lightening storms.
As it turned out, dogs have discovered that if they get on tile or linoleum surfaces, it breaks the electro-static charge and stops them from getting shocked.
But they still suffer from fear of the BIG BANG BOOM and from the lightening strikes.
So. Basically, you need to mimic everything that you can about a thunderstorm, starting with its lowest possible value. By that, I mean - go to a nature store or to www.dogwise.com and buy a thunderstorm DVD. Put it on the LOWEST volume for MERE SECONDS and pair with the MOST WONDERFUL THINGS IN LIFE that your dog defines. Realize that stress over-rides appetite, so if your dog is refusing Fillet of Bunny Buns, that means that the stress of the thunderstorm noise is TOO MUCH or TOO LONG. So decrease it. Does your dog go crazy for tennis balls? That is the ONLY time that your dog should play with a tennis ball - when you are playing your thunderstorm tape.
To go to the most extremes, you can put a pie plate in the shower (emulates rain pounding off the roof) and get a strobe light (emulates lightning) and work really, really hard at desensitizing. But given the physical pain, this is often a labour of love that produces little results.
Another very popular and successful technique is to teach the dog a rock solid comfort zone. This is done in the absence of a storm and involves a VERY comfy bed and some REALLY yummy treats/fun things to do/chew. Teach your dog that this spot is its "safety" zone and that only good things happen there. Then, when the Big Bad Thunder Storm rolls in, he or she can retreat to a pre-prepared "safety zone" and try to relax in comfort.
The anti-anxiety drug Acepromazine is often given for thunderstorm anxiety, however, adrenaline over-rides its effect and dogs will pant their way through the storm only to be completely gorked afterwards. It is also hard to anticipate the exact arrival of the storm, so difficult to dose accordingly. Other anti-anxiety drugs need to be given on a regular basis, often for months at a time, and are counter-indicated for such a sporadic/seasonal problem.
As usual, please give me a call if I can help you - my contact information is always included.