Message from Dr. Blease: Anxiety in Dogs - June 2014


I have been witnessing a very high level of anxiety in considerably more dogs than in past years. It is not unusual around July 4th but this year the AHC and shelter (CSA) have received numerous calls about runaway and lost dogs and the ACO’s brought in many dogs the night of July 4th. The lucky ones return home, the unlucky ones get killed (cars), permanently lost or go to a kill shelter.

Two-three weeks after the fireworks we have many dogs almost afraid to go outside, afraid to come out from hiding, afraid of their food dishes, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, excessive loss of house training while others are urinating in different areas of the house – on beds and couches. Others seem to fear “the sky is falling” or some other catastrophe.

The anxiety is at a heightened level this year due to complicating factors. Fleas are also involved. This spring has been unfavorable for fleas but favorable for ticks. Until recently we have had very few problems with fleas but plenty of ticks. Towards the end of June, the weather changed dramatically and so did the flea population. Fleas need heat and humidity. The third stage of flea development is a pupa, containing a miniature flea. These fleas can live up to a year in the pupa stage, but when conditions are right, they “hatch” in large numbers and “attack” anything with 4 legs.

Most dogs can tolerate a few fleas, but when massive numbers of fleas appear, they make the dogs very uncomfortable and nervous. 40% of all dogs are allergic to fleas and many develop Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), loss of hair, rashes (scratching) and infectious dermatitis (hot spots).

Complicating the situation is allergies. I don’t know what is in the air, but again, we are seeing abnormal levels of allergic dogs, possibly to molds due to unusual weather patterns of rain and storms. Here in NJ, since late June we have had several unusually hard thunderstorms with localized flooding and flood warnings.

Dogs that are not usually afraid of fireworks and thunder storms are looking up to the skies. Fireworks (spread over more days as it rained on the 4th, postponing family barbecues & fireworks), thunderstorms, fleas, FAD, and rapidly changing barometric pressures all have dogs on edge and some are really spooked.

If you have a nervous dog, be sure to control fleas, protect him from fireworks, console him during thunderstorms, and consider tranquilizers and or pheromones when indicated. Don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian. All dogs should be microchipped and if your pet is one that runs away, you will have some comfort knowing he has a microchip. There is further information available in the DIA area of this site.