When Theo developed his fear of thunderstorms, he was about a year and a half, and I thought I was in the clear of any dog anxieties of phobias. Boy, was I wrong. This is why I preach having a very proactive role in preventing thunder or noise phobia in dogs, because once they have a noise phobia, it can be very tricky to resolve or manage.
When Theo developed his thunder phobia (2002), I didn’t have really any experience with noise phobias in dogs. I was learning as I went and trying to research and learn all that I could as quickly as I could. Little did I know, it would be something I focused on for the rest of Theo’s life.
Theo’s noise phobia was severe. Not only would he be in an extreme panic, pacing, digging, panting, drooling and even eliminating, but he would also injure himself if I was not with him during a storm. This made it extremely dangerous and very stressful. And like the 40-60% of other noise phobic dogs, Theo then developed separation anxiety.
Needless to say, I did everything I knew at that time. Which brings us to today and a new drug, SILEO® (dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel), marketed towards dogs with noise aversion. I’ve already been asked if this is something I would recommend. First, I can’t ever recommend a prescription drug, since I’m not a veterinarian. Second, when I work with clients, I have a full history intake, including medical followed up by a 2-3 hour consultation. So, I would never be able to even start to think if this would be something for your dog in a blog post. What I can do, is talk about Theo and what I would or wouldn’t do in his case.
First up, what exactly is Sileo? Whenever I want to truly understand a medication for dogs, I reach out to my holistic veterinarian, Dr. Judy Morgan. Dr. Morgan explains (read Dr. Morgan’s post on Sileo) that, “dexmedetomidine oromucosal injection is a sedative and pain relief medication used for surgical, dental, and clinical procedures.” That answer right there puts up quite a red flag for me and here’s why.
For Theo, his noise phobia was indeed very concerning and he was certainly at his limits. However, when I was home with him, I was able to at least keep him safe and relatively calm with a variety of training techniques, medication and calming aids. Our hardest part was the rare occasion when Theo would have to be at home alone during a storm. That was the situation I was desperately trying to find relief for Theo. But, a sedative, while he was not with a person is not something I would ever feel comfortable with. If a dog is going to be sedated, he needs to be closely monitored. I’m not sure a dog guardian has the tools or knowledge to even do this safely.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not use SILEO in dogs with severe cardiovascular disease, respiratory, liver or kidney diseases, or in conditions of shock, severe debilitation, or stress due to extreme heat, cold or fatigue or in dogs hypersensitive to dexmedetomidine or to any of the excipients. SILEO should not be administered in the presence of preexisting hypotension, hypoxia, or bradycardia. Do not use in dogs sedated from previous dosing. SILEO has not been evaluated in dogs younger than 16 weeks of age or in dogs with dental or gingival disease that could have an effect on the absorption of SILEO. SILEO has not been evaluated for use in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs. Transient pale mucous membranes at the site of application may occur with SILEO use. Other uncommon adverse reactions included emesis, drowsiness or sedation. Handle gel-dosing syringes with caution to avoid direct exposure to skin, eyes or mouth. See full Prescribing Information.
I do find it a bit odd that two conditions, shock, and stress are stated as reasons NOT to use Sileo. For me, there just isn’t enough information on the positive effects Sileo may have on behavior. But, that is just my personal opinion. You should have a long conversation with your veterinarian on pros and cons before jumping in. Also, as always, if you feel your dog needs medication for behavioral problems, you need to address his behavior with a good behavior modification program if you ever want to truly help your dog with his anxieties. For more help on dog thunder phobia, please check out my webinar-treating thunder phobia. I would be happy to help you help your dog on a personalized training plan, just give me a shout.