Innovative Noise Aversion Study Wins Award

December 18, 2017
Kerry Lengyel

The research team that developed a product to lessen the fear response in dogs to loud noises, such as fireworks, has won the Veterinary Record Impact Award.

A research study from Orion Pharma has won the 2017 Veterinary Record Impact Award, which is given annually to the study that is predicted to have the most potential contribution for changing veterinary practice.

A research team from UK-based Orion Pharma, led by Mira Korpivaara, DVM and Mirja Huhtinen, DVM, PhD, developed an oromucosal form of dexmedetomidine that can be administered at home to pets that suffer from noise-associated acute anxiety and fear. The study was deemed by the Veterinary Record research editorial team from about 150 studies to have the most significant practical impact. With up to 49% of owners reporting noise sensitivity in their pets, it’s safe to say that this behavior issue is a prevalent concern.

RELATED:

  • Behavioral Signs of Noise Aversion In Dogs
  • Noise Aversion: Medication Options

The Study

To determine the effect of dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel at subsedative doses, 182 dogs with a history of acute anxiety and fear associated with fireworks noise were given either the medication (89 dogs) or a placebo (93 dogs) on New Year’s Eve in 2012. All dogs were dosed up to 5 times as needed in a randomized, double-blinded study.

Owners of the study’s dogs evaluated the effects of the treatment at several predefined time points before and during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Of the 89 dogs given the dexmedetomidine oral gel, 64 (72%) had good or excellent treatment results (ie, no, mild or temporary signs of fear and anxiety); only 34 of the 93 dogs given the placebo (37%) showed fewer signs of stress and anxiety.

Pet owners were told to report if their pet experienced any of these signs of fear from fireworks exposure:

  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Vocalizing (whining, barking, growling, howling)
  • Pacing
  • Seeking people (climbing in lap, following)
  • Trying to hide/escape
  • Freezing
  • Refusing to eat food/treats
  • Inappropriate urination/defecation
  • Salivating

Conclusion

According to the investigators, “This study demonstrated that oromucosal dexmedetomidine at subsedative doses alleviates noise-associated acute anxiety and fear in dogs.”

Besides the statistical significance of the study, the participating pet owners found the administration form and delivery system of the oral gel to be very easy to use across the range of dogs that were tested.

“Both the high prevalence of and the unmet need for treatment of noise-related anxiety and fear became evident when this study was initiated,” wrote the study authors. This innovative and proven treatment for noise aversion in dogs is available by prescription in the United Kingdom.

The study authors emphasized the importance of setting up a personalized treatment plan for every patient, as well as instructing clients carefully on using the treatment medication correctly.