Ash Veterinary Clinic


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Fireworks Fear in Pets


Summer is full of celebrations involving fireworks. Canada Day is on July 1 and Independence Day is on July 4. Some pets are not bothered by fireworks, but others have the potential to get hurt trying to get away from the terrifying noise and lights. Independence Day is the busiest day of the year in shelters and many pets get lost or injured. Most pets will do better if they are not home alone during firework events. Try to think ahead before leaving for your 4th of July celebrations.

                Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts can involve hiding behind furniture and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.

Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep plenty available. Bring outside pets inside, so they cannot escape. Keep your cats securely inside, and if your dog needs a bathroom break during the fireworks, take them outside on a leash, even in a fenced yard. Make sure all your pets are wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number. Tags and collars can be lost, so a microchip is even more useful in helping you find your lost pet.

There are things you can do to help keep your frightened pet safe and calm. For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate or in a “safe” room with a closed door is all that is needed. Some natural remedies that can assist your pet in keeping calm during the festivities include pheromone sprays, such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs, and essential oils like lavender. These sprays imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being. Essential oils like lavender are naturally calming and very helpful in many cases. Lastly, some pets respond to pressure wraps, such as Thundershirts or Anxiety Wraps. The pressure on the body has a calming effect.

If you can plan ahead for these summer events, veterinary behaviorists often recommend behavior modification, counter conditioning, and teaching a desirable coping response.               In behavior modification, controlling the intensity of the fireworks is necessary and often the most challenging part. Often, is not possible to expose a fearful dog to only “little fireworks,” so distance from the fireworks can be less intimidating.  Music may disguise the bursts of noise and giving positive attention to the pet can help lessen the negative reaction. Classical counter conditioning can create a positive association with fireworks if the anxiety is not extreme. Give high-value food rewards, offer your pet his favorite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards.

                You can also try teaching a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening thing ends. Providing a safe retreat for your pet, such as a crate or a closet, will give security and confidence. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs!

It is easier to prevent a fearful reaction than it is to reverse one. If your pet is nervous around loud noises, a short-term sedative before the fireworks start may be just the ticket. Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time, so you can have something on hand to give your pet before the noise begins. Several medications are used for fireworks or thunderstorm phobias in dogs; however, do not use any of your own prescriptions because many human drugs are not safe for animals.

                You have many choices of how to help your pet cope with fireworks and summer stress.  If you would like discuss with Dr. Broschay about what is best for your pet, please call us at 734-782-2827 to set up an appointment. Hopefully, everyone in the family will then be able enjoy the summer festivities!

[4:06:25 PM] Dianne Raftopoulos: