4th of July fireworks and summer thunderstorms can cause anxiety in some pets. Anxiety can make your animal do strange things like hide, urinate in the house or even chew on themselves or items in the house. There are steps through both training and treatment that you can take to help minimize the effect of these noisy, stressful situations on your pet.
Training is the most successful solution, but it isn’t always practical for those with busy lifestyles. The basics of training are easy, once you know how to approach it. If a thunderstorm, or firework related holiday (4th of July is just one, fireworks are also used on New Years and on the 5th of November.) is approaching, your pet will look at your behavior to get clues on how he or she should behave. Play with your dog during a thunderstorm, or offer some of their favorite treats, to let them know that the noise is no reason to panic. Use a tone of voice that is upbeat and happy, not pitying, and reward your pet for their hearty behavior. Some breeds, particularly those used for hunting, may find it easier to adapt than others. It should also be noted that ear infections can make loud noises even more painful due to sensitivity in the ears. Some dog simply cannot rise above the fear that is associated with loud noises, and a treatment course may have better results. It’s best to consult with you veterinarian to get the best recommendations for your particular pet.
One treatment option you can get over-the-counter is a pheromone treatment. We carry DAP for dogs and Feliway for cats. These are specially-made treatments derived from pheromones, or scent-chemicals, that mothering animals release. Though humans can’t smell them, they have a calming effect on pets. These treatments come in collars for dogs and a spray and diffuser for both dogs and cats. The pheromone reminds your pet of when they were young and safe with their mother and therefore calms them and limits destructive and anxiety-based behaviors. These treatments are good for other applications too, visit our Links page for more information. Sometimes even the pheromone treatments aren’t enough to placate the most skittish animals. These panic-stricken pets often need a type of tranquilizer to make it through these stressful occasions.
In the past, many pet owners have come to recognize Acepromazine as the drug of choice for sedating their pets during stressful times like going on flights or the 4th of July. However, studies have indicated that while the ACP will sedate your pet, it may actually make them more sound sensitive. There is a drug, Xanax, which is commonly used to treat humans, which can help your pets as well. Xanax is a sedative that reduces anxiety and works as a muscle relaxer, though it is also used to suppress seizure activity. A single dose can be enough to help your pet ride out a bad thunderstorm or a fireworks show easily. As with any drug, there are side effects, so Xanax may not be right for your pet. Your veterinarian may want to check your pet’s liver functions or discuss interactions with other drugs before dispensing Xanax. Xanax can also cause some pets to have increased aggression, so the first dose should be supervised to see how your particular pet will respond to the drug. Xanax is a controlled substance, and as such, is available only with a prescription.
If your pet has a high anxiety level or is fearful of loud noises, we recommend discussing one of these options with your veterinarian so you can be ready when the fireworks start flying on the 4th of July.