As many of our clients are painfully aware, the loud noises from fireworks can cause symptoms of fear and anxiety in pets, ranging from mild trembling, panting, and hiding, to severe panic with attempts to escape through windows or fences, risking severe injury or loss.
We encourage you to have a plan in place for the anxiety associated with fireworks. For pets that are aided by prescription medications, please check early to verify that you have those medications at home. The pandemic has made access to veterinary services challenging, therefore we are unable to accommodate overdue annual exams necessary for medication refills.
Here are some important things you can do to help keep your pet safe and calm this holiday season:
- Keep your pets inside and supervised.
- Prevent escapes and loss by never leaving your pets unattended, even in a fenced-in yard.
- Make sure their microchip ID is up to date, and that they have an updated ID tag on their collar. Make sure their collar is fitted tightly enough so it won’t slip off of their head.
- Do a perimeter check and make sure there are no open windows or ways to escape from your yard if they get spooked while going outside to do their business.
- Create a safe place for your pets.
- This might be the crate that they already feel safe in, or another part of the home they feel comfortable in.
- Have some background noise to help cancel out the random booms. Music, like Reggae, soft rock, and classical, has been shown to have a relaxing effect on dogs. White noise generators or fans are another option.
- Plug-in pheromone adaptors, like Adaptil, may have a calming effect as well.
- Make sure they have water close by.
- Use interactive food dispensing toys or kongs stuffed with yummy food to distract and keep your dog occupied.
- STAY HOME with your pet during the worst of it.
- Please resist the temptation to visit with friends and family or neighbors, leaving your dog behind or bringing them into an unfamiliar environment.
- Consider having “family” time, cuddling on the couch watching a movie marathon, with background noise to mask the outside booms.
- Reward your dog for staying calm during big booms by giving them praise and high value treats immediately after.
- Exercise your dog during the quiet time of the day, if possible.
- Give your dog the chance to get plenty of exercise during the day, before the fireworks really get started.
- Keep your dog leashed and avoid off-leash areas, since unpredictable noises may be startling and cause your dog to bolt. (See #1.)
- These over-the-counter calming resources/supplements may be helpful for dogs with noise phobias:
- Thunder Shirts or Anxiety Wraps for 20-30 minutes on, 20-30 minutes off.
- Plug-in maternal pheromones like Adaptil.
- Rescue Remedy and other Flower Essences.
- Melatonin 1-4mg by mouth every 12 hours for short term use.
- CBD oil 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg by mouth every 12 hours.
- Composure or Composure Pro, a combination of nutraceuticals that support a relaxed state of mind.
Please keep in mind that medications and supplements are best used prior to the anticipated anxiety stimulus as most require several days to establish a calming effect. Unfortunately, once your pet is in a highly anxious state, most medications are not likely to provide quick and reliable relief.
And finally, if anxiety or fear with noises is an ongoing problem, please consider incorporating some training into your daily routine. Consider working with a trainer or a behavior specialist. One online resource to consider is the “Fireworks Without Fear – Desensitization to Loud Sounds” Video on Demand offered at Synergy Behavior Solutions.
We are counting on our pets for companionship more than ever these days. Consider this time as an opportunity to build your relationship, practice your training, and enjoy the holiday together.