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Health Matter: Help Your Dog Weather the Storm
By O’rya Hyde-Keller
Some unfortunate pet owners know a thunderstorm is on its way, not by an ache in their knees, but by the frightened behavior of their dogs. Hiding, excessive panting, shivering, whimpering, or worse, tearing things apart—these are all common symptoms of the thunder-phobic canine.
It’s easy to see, then, why many dog owners simply want to put Fido out of his misery using a chemical tranquilizer or sedative. Why not use a natural solution—melatonin—instead. According to Linda Aronson, DVM, a Massachusetts-based veterinarian and pet behavior specialist (www.petshrink.com), a dosage of melatonin proves effective in 80 percent of cases. Even better, she says, “I’ve had dogs that no longer needed melatonin because they learned to overcome their fears while taking it.”
Melatonin works by affecting the level of serotonin and dopamine in dogs’ brains, the neurotransmitters most involved in behavior. It also increases levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body deal with stress.
For dogs 30 to 100 pounds, Aronson recommends a dosage of 3 mg, three times a day. Pups 15 to 30 pounds should get 1.5 mg up to three times a day; and dogs under 15 pounds 1 mg up to three times a day. Dogs that top 100 pounds can take up to 6 mg, but this amount is rarely necessary. Aronson advises using tablets instead of capsules and avoiding time-release forms or brands that contain additional ingredients.
Some dogs need to be given melatonin before they hear the first clap of thunder, which can be hard to predict. But because melatonin has no side effects, a nasty forecast provides reason enough to break out the bottle and ensure that your dog will brave the storm.
Author: O’rya Hyde-Keller
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