Fido and Spot may not have to cower under the bed this summer when fireworks and thunderstorms hit, thanks to the first prescription veterinary medicine for treating anxiety over loud noises — a widespread problem that causes property destruction, terrified dogs running away and sometimes even death.
Veterinary medicine maker Zoetis Inc. said Monday that recently approved Sileo will be available through veterinarians within a week.
It's a much-needed option for dogs not helped by repurposed medicines designed for their humans, or by rarely effective behavioral strategies.
Owners of at least one-third of the 70 million dogs in the United States report problems with loud noises. Dogs are sometimes so frightened they jump through plate-glass windows, destroy doors while trying to escape a room or run into traffic and get hit by cars. As a result, July 5 is the most common day for frustrated pet owners to drop a dog off at a shelter, which sometimes leads to the animal being euthanized.
"I have seen the absolutely worst things that can happen with noise anxiety," Dr. J. Michael McFarland, head of U.S. pet marketing at Zoetis, told the Associated Press.
The anxiety can get worse over time and is much like post-traumatic stress disorder in humans, said McFarland, a veterinarian who spent a quarter-century working at animal hospitals, including running one of the first after-hours emergency pet hospitals in the country.
Current treatments range from human anti-anxiety pills and tranquilizers that sedate dogs but don't calm them to behavioral treatments. Those include confining the dog to a small room or portable kennel, or trying to desensitize dogs by repeatedly exposing them to increasingly loud noise, which McFarland said he's never seen work. Another option is close-fitting shirts that comfort some dogs with minor noise problems by simulating a hug.
Sileo works by blocking norepinephrine, a brain chemical similar to adrenaline that pumps up anxiety. Sileo comes in prefilled plastic syringes with a dial for a dose according to the dog's weight.
The needleless syringe is placed between the dog's gum and lip. A little push ejects a small amount of gel that's absorbed by the tissue lining the cheek, which limits how much circulates in the dog's body at a time while enabling the medicine to start working within 30 to 60 minutes. It works for two to three hours, said McFarland, who's used it with good results on his Finnish Lapphund.
A syringe costs $30, about two doses for an 80- to 100-pound dog or fours doses for a 40-pound dog.
In testing on 182 beagles conducted on New Year's Eve, 75 percent of their owners rated its effect good or excellent. Side effects were rare and minor.
Zoetis is a top maker of medicines and vaccines for pets and livestock, including Rimadyl for pain from arthritis and surgery.