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For most of us, fireworks signify the best of summer: warm summer nights, BBQs, and summertime bliss. But for anyone that lives with a firework-phobic dog, fireworks can bring up the opposite emotions. Dogs that are afraid of fireworks are usually more than just a little afraid – they panic and become uncontrollable. In the best case scenarios, they will shiver and hide under a chair or table. Worst case scenario, some dogs have jumped through glass windows or doors and seriously injured themselves.
One town in Italy banned loud fireworks altogether in order to decrease anxiety for pets and wildlife. Perhaps in the future, more places will consider this option. But until that happens, today’s blog post will go through some natural and non-pharmaceutical options you can try.
One of my dogs had terrible firework and thunder anxiety. It was not easy. While I could medicate her and prepare for the 4th, it was the stray fireworks leading up to and after July 4th that caused the most problems. I certainly didn’t want to drug her for the whole summer. After a few years, I found a solution that worked for us that did not require medication. Since then, I have learned from other veterinarians and pet owners what worked for them. I will share this information in this blog post today.
If you are going to use pharmaceuticals, I would avoid giving something like Acepromazine, that sedates the animal but might not decrease their anxiety. With this medication they are immobilized but quite possibly still scared. This can be traumatic. It would be like seeing a bear but your body is paralyzed and you cannot escape. It is better to use medications that have anxiolytic properties. Ask your veterinarian before picking up a prescription.
Make Some Noise If You Have A Dog Afraid Of Fireworks
When my own dog had firework anxiety, it took me a few tries to find the right non-pharmaceutical combination of tricks. While often recommended, I found that “white noise machines,” or even the TV on loudly, was not enough. There was not enough vibration coming from the white noise machines to drown out a popping firework. And there were too many silent breaks on TV that would somehow perfectly time with a loud clap of thunder.
However, I learned through trial and error that large box fans at their highest settings were loud enough to drown out most fireworks and thunder claps. For an especially sensitive dog, you may want to consider using more than one and keeping your pet contained in the room with the fans.
Something about the noise level and vibrations seemed to work. However on their own they did not always help if my dog was on high alert, especially with the static changes felt before a thunderstorm.
What I found was that if I took her on a very long walk so she was tired and then gave her a “Composure” – a natural, calming amino acid-based treat, that this took the edge off just enough to make her sleepy and less focused on the noises. If I gave her the Composure early enough (30-60 minutes before the event or just as I saw a storm brewing) and then turned on the loud fans, she would calmly sleep through most thunder and firework situations. I tried not to give her the treat regularly to prevent her body from becoming too accustomed to it and risk losing efficacy. However, she was a pretty relaxed dog otherwise, so it was not a huge concern.
If you are in a situation where noise anxiety is a daily occurrence, then giving it once a day is perfectly safe. You might want to “top it off” with an additional method on particularly loud or high stress days.
Natural Options for Noise Anxiety In Pets Afraid Of Fireworks
For pets with long-term noise anxiety (ie they are afraid of something in the house that is unavoidable like the microwave or doors closing, etc.), then giving L-theanine on a daily basis can help. I have seen good results with it for noise anxiety in particular.
You can buy it either in the “brand name” version called Anxitane, or simply buy L-theanine for people. You can use the doses from Anxitane as a guide for how much to give based on your pet’s weight.
For short-term stress, here are some other options you can try:
**For all of these products I have gotten good feedback from clients. However, I would still not rely on any single treatment for this problem. Even if you give something orally, keeping outside noises to a minimum (closing windows, etc.) and turning on loud fans or even a loud air purifier on the high setting may still be required. You may find that a certain combination of treatments works best. However, especially for oral treatments, always initiate one at a time.**
- Homeopet Fireworks – This is a homeopathic formulation specifically for pets. It is very safe and can be combined with most other treatments.
- Homeopet Storm Stress – This is another version of the homeopathic made specifically for thunderstorms.
- Assisi Calmer Canine – Many holistic veterinarians use and recommend these devices. There are some available for pain and recently one for anxiety. As the website describes: “Calmer Canine delivers microcurrents of targeted pulsed electromagnetic field (tPEMF) signals to the area of the brain involved in controlling emotions such as anxiety”
- Calm-a-mile Essential Oil – This is an essential oil blend developed by veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shelton. Please read her website for a description on how to use. Calm-a-mile “Neat” is meant for diffusion while the “RTU” version is diluted for safe use in massage and topical application.
5. Through a Dog’s Ear Calming music – While perhaps less helpful with loud fans blaring, this is another method to try for calming the senses. It might be more appropriate for separation anxiety, but if you have well insulated windows and doors and noise is well contained in the house, this may be worth considering.
6. Dog Ear Muffs – While not only super stylish, some dogs will benefit with ear muffs to help keep the noise to a minimum.
7. Rescue Remedy – This flower essence may be worth considering. Give every 15-30 minutes during the fireworks to keep stress contained. It is also a useful essence to consider for AFTER the stressful event to help with any post-event anxiety, or in severe cases, even PTSD. You may want to add a few drops of Red Clover Flower essence to this formula to help with generalized panic.
Read here to learn how to dose: https://holistikavet.com/6-how-to-give-flower-essences-to-pets/
8. Thunder Coat – Many people are familiar with these jackets that create pressure and make pets feel more secure. They probably won’t work as a solo treatment, but combined with some of these other options, they can help.
9. CBD oils – I list these last because I have not found them to be particularly helpful for fireworks. They do help with generalized anxiety, but may not be strong enough for sudden noise phobia. However, feel free to comment below if your experience with them has been different!
Last Notes For Helping A Dog Afraid Of Fireworks
Other than all these listed methods, remember to take all precautions to keep your pet safe during this time. Make sure they have a microchip (that is properly registered!) in case they escape. If you are keeping them in a room, be careful with leashes unless they are supervised. A crate may be the best option. Cover the crate with blankets so that they feel secure.
Do not overwhelm them with essential oils unless it is something you have previously tested with them (allow them to smell it – if they show interest and keep sniffing or lick their lips, then this oil is likely ok for them).
You may have to try a few different methods until you find the combination that works best for your pet.
Comment below if you use something not listed here that has worked for your pet!
And as much as you can, enjoy your summer holiday and Happy 4th!
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