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Sileo: Helping your dog calm down during fireworks and thunderstorms

Posted 06.30.16 by Alison Bradshaw, DVM

Something New For Canine Storm Anxiety?fireworksandsileo

Does your dog fear fireworks? Pant up a storm when it’s thundering? Well, there’s a new option available to help with that.

Sileo is the trade name of a drug long-used in the veterinary field. Dexdomitor (also called dexmeditomidine) has been available as an injectable medication for veterinary anesthesia for many years. Now it comes in a unique oral gel that you insert between your dog’s lip and gums. The medication is absorbed across the gums, so it does not have to be swallowed. Gone are the days of forcing a pill down the throat of a panicking pup!

How Does It Work?

Sileo helps to decrease the amount of norepinephrine (or sileopicnoradrenalin) released in an animal’s brain. Norepinephrine is a molecule involved in the fight-or-flight part of the nervous system. Turning it down should thus prevent a dog from becoming so over stimulated by loud, scary noises. I have long used a tiny dose of this medication given as an IV injection for dogs who wake up disoriented and howling from anesthesia. It usually works like a charm. The dog is not knocked out, just calm and no longer distressed.

What are the Side Effects?

Sileo can effect a dog’s heart rate, respirations, and blood pressure. When used in the vet clinic at high doses to “knock a dog out,” the heart rate can drop from a normal 120 beats per minute down to about 40! This can be a bit nerve wracking, even if a doctor knows it’s coming. At the low doses to be used in the Sileo oral gel, however, such a drop would not be expected. Sileo also causes small blood vessels, called capillaries, to constrict, which can make a dog’s gums look white. Again, this is not a concerning sign if you know it is normal for the drug. Still, veterinarians will select the patients for whom Sileo is considered safe and effective, and dog owners should not exceed the dosing instructions they are given. Sileo is not approved for use in pregnant animals, and should not be given to dogs who have heart, respiratory, liver, kidney, or other serious disease.

How is Sileo Given?

sileo thunderstormSileo oral gel comes in a reusable hard tube with dot markings on the side designating a dosing “unit”. The number of units a dog needs for a dose depends on its size. As with many drugs, Sileo will be cheaper for smaller animals, and more costly for larger ones. There are twelve units in a syringe. One unit is a single dose for a dog up to 5.5 lbs. Two units per dose for a dog 5.5-12 lbs. And for a 200lb mastiff, all 12 units would be a single dose! You can repeat a dose every two hours for up to FIVE doses, which would be a VERY LONG thunderstorm or VERY EXPENSIVE fireworks display! A syringe can be used for up to two weeks after it is opened, but it should be stored in its box because the drug is light-sensitive.

Sileo gel should be given between the upper lip and gums, and should NOT be swallowed. The drug is actually inactivated in the GI tract, so it should be absorbed across the gums to work properly. A swallowed dose is not dangerous, it just won’t work well.

Sileo and Human Safety

Owners should wear impermeable gloves when administering this oral gel to prevent the medication from being absorbed across their own skin. Pregnant women should not administer the drug because of the potential for blood pressure changes if contacted. Wash hands after using Sileo, or after contacting the dog’s mouth shortly after they have received a dose.

If you know you will be out of town or out of the house for a loud event, another option for keeping your pet calm during a storm could be allowing them to stay with us at the clinic! Sometimes just not being home alone can help them feel safer.

For more information about this new drug, including videos on how it is administered, and helpful hints about canine noise aversion, go to:

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