One of my favorite holidays is coming up! I love the Fourth of July! I love thinking about the history of the day. I love spending time with my friends and family. And, of course, I love the fireworks! I’ve always loved fireworks, and, in my opinion, the bigger and louder they are, the better they are! I know many of you all feel the same way, but there are very important members of our families that may not feel the same way. Many household pets have severe anxiety associated with loud noises – especially fireworks. In fact, the Fourth of July is usually one of the busiest times in animal shelters because so many pets get anxious and run away! So this month, I am writing a special blog about this fear and special considerations for the holiday coming up!
Noise anxiety in our pets can be difficult because it can look different in all of them. Some pets may not be scared when they are little, but develop the fear over time. Some pets may be very outwardly scared; while others show very mild outward signs. However, whether or not your pet shows big signs or little signs, they are dealing with anxiety, and we can help!
So let’s talk about some of the signs you may see. Some of the most common signs of anxiety include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Common hiding spots are places like behind or under furniture, basements, or small rooms like bathrooms. Because the source of the noise from fireworks is confusing to pets, indoor pets may try to escape to the outside, while outdoor pets may be frantic to get inside. As you can see, there is a wide array of signs of anxiety. You may think that your pet is just being extra loving, but they could actually be trying to tell you they are very scared.
So now let’s address what we can do to help our fur babies enjoy this day as much as we do. There are many things that we can do to help. For some pets, simply being in a crate (as long as they are used to one) or a “safe room” is all that is needed. Put their favorite toys and treats in there and just let them relax on their own. Others may need more. Synthetic pheromone sprays, such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs are available. These sprays imitate the natural pheromones of the lactating female that give puppies and kittens a sense of well-being and safety. There are herbal relaxant chews that are available (I cannot guarantee these work because there is no scientific research behind them, but many of my clients like them. Feel free to call your veterinarian to make sure all the ingredients are safe for your pet.) Some pets respond well to pressure wraps, such as Thundershirts. If you can plan ahead for these summer events, veterinary behaviorists often can recommend behavior modification, counter conditioning, or teach desirable coping responses.
For pets with severe anxiety, medication is usually needed to help them with their fear. Many times when I bring up anti-anxiety medications in the exam room, my clients tend to be very hesitant. I usually hear that they do not want to “drug their dog” just because they are fearful. What I hope you understand is that your veterinarian will never suggest something harmful to them. Most dogs with noise anxiety just need short term medication. This not only makes it safer for them but increases the quality of their life by decreasing their anxiety. Please feel free to call your veterinarian for any questions about anti-anxiety medications.
As you can see, there are many things we can do to help your furry loved ones during scary times for them. There are also some important planning to do before the big day though. Make sure that your pet has a collar with all of the proper tags on it. It is also highly beneficial to have them microchipped in case they accidentally get out. If you cannot be home with your pet during this time, consider boarding them to ensure their safety. It is also a good idea to know what veterinary clinics or emergency clinics will be open that day in case they injure themselves when trying to escape (I have seen a dog that jumped through a plate glass window because he was so scared!!). If your pet does get out, be sure to have the numbers of the local animal shelters available.
As always, your veterinarian is always the best place to come for advice for your pet. We only want what is best for them and your family. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday with your families! God bless you all and God bless America!
About the Author
Dr. Heritage Enevoldsen