Summer is full of fun times and celebrations, especially around the Independence Day holiday. The fireworks this time of year sure are beautiful to watch. Dogs and cats all react differently to fireworks. While some do not seem to mind, others are driven into a panic at the noise or the flashes of fireworks. Some pets have panicked so much they have caused injury to themselves or others.
Most shelters and pet advocacy groups report the Independence Day is the busiest day in the shelter system for escaped animals. These animals escape their homes, and if they are lucky, are found and brought to rescues or shelters. Others are at risk for injury or even being hit by a car while running in a panic. We recommend being aware of where local shelters and emergency clinics are located. Also using social media outlets like Lost Dogs of Illinois to help post found animals, or post a lost pet.
In a perfect world we would stay home with our pets during firework events, however for many of us that is not always an option. However, there are other options to help ease your pets anxiety.
Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to 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 more available than usual. (And remember, these summer events usually mean hotter weather, and the likelihood of power problems, so extra water is already a good idea.) Bring outside pets inside, so they can’t bolt. Keep your cats securely inside, and if your dog needs a potty break during the fireworks, take him 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 reunite with your pet in case he or she is lost.
What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate (as long as they are used to one) or in a “safe” room with a closed door is all that’s needed. Synthetic pheromone sprays such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil (formerly called D.A.P.) for dogs are available at pet stores. These sprays imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being. We carry plug-in diffusers of these products at LePar that give a constant level of the calming pheromone and NutureCalm collars that work on the same principle.
Some pets respond to pressure wraps, such as Thundershirts or Anxiety Wraps. The pressure on the body may have a calming effect.
It’s easier to prevent a fearful reaction than it is to reverse one. If your pet is nervous around loud, unexpected noises, a short-term sedative before the fireworks start may be just the ticket. Please call us ahead of time, so you can have something on hand to give your pet before the noise begins. Some medications often used for fireworks or thunderstorm phobias in dogs are Xanax, Trazodone, and Sileo (dexdomedetomidne). Some severely anxious pets may benefit from medications that increase the level of serotonin. Trazodone may start working within a few hours, but its effect varies, so you should test it with your dog before the fireworks season starts.
You have many choices of how to help your pet cope with fireworks stress. Please talk to one of our doctors about what is best for your pet. Hopefully, everyone in the family will then be able enjoy the holiday!