Fireworks aren't just for the 4th of July anymore. We have them to celebrate New Year's Eve, amusement park shows, and baseball games. Same with thunderstorms, while more common in spring and summer, they can happen all year round. Here are resources to learn more about fireworks and thunder problems in pets (loud noise phobias) and how to keep your pet safe and sane when the volume ramps up.
As many pet lovers know, fireworks and thunder storms can cause a great deal of stress for some animals. Fear of loud sounds - fireworks, thunder, gunshot - are called noise phobias. For a pet affected by loud noises, this is a terrifying and uncomfortable time; both for the pet and the people. Your pet cannot control their reaction to loud noises, and may run away or severely injury themself trying to "escape" the loud noise.
Learn more about this condition, tips for helping your pet at home, and available medical therapies available if your pet has severe anxiety and stress from thunderstorms and fireworks.
How dogs and cats react to loud noises varies widely. Some animals seem unaffected, others will jump through glass windows in terror. For animals that are afraid of loud noises, they can't help it, and the effect often multiplies if left untreated. What works for one pet may not work for another.
Here are some things to try to help reduce loud noise phobias. For extreme cases, please see your veterinarian - there are safe and effective medications to help with loud noise phobias.
Noise phobias are not the animal's fault. They can't be calmed or scolded out of their very real fears. The "old" medication standby for thunderstorms was a drug commonly referred to as "Ace," short for Acepromazine (Promace ®). This drug is not the best choice for this condition, because while it sedates, it is not anxiety-reducing (anxiolytic). While it takes away the ability to move (most of the time) doesn't calm the fears, in effect making them much worse over time. This blog post discusses storm phobias and is a way to alert people that there are newer, more effective drugs to deal with this condition. As always, please see your veterinarian for specific advice about your pet.
Another big day in July is July 5th, one of the biggest days at shelters for lost pets. These are pets who have bolted from their people, yards or homes during the fireworks. Many injure themselves (sometimes severely) in the attempt to get away from the loud noises.
This is the story of a dog we found, trying like crazy to escape a parked vehicle during a fireworks display. He succeeded, only to find himself running lost in a strange town.
I recently tried out the DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) calming collar for dogs on my own dog, Sophie. She had mild noise phobia, panting, pacing and trembling. This product is not a drug, not toxic and while I didn't have much hope that it would do anything, I was surprised by our results. Your mileage may vary, but this may be something to consider, in conjuction with behavior modification or other therapies.
DAP spray is a great 'quick fix' to help calm stressed dogs. I like to use this product in conjunction with the DAP collar when my dogs are worried about fireworks and other loud noises. DAP spray also works great on dog beds and in dog crates for travel and separation anxiety issues.
This product is based in part on the work by Temple Grandin, noted author, Doctor of Animal Science, and professor at Colorado State University. The thought is that gentle pressure provided by this shirt calms the nervous system. Does it work? I tried it on my own dog Sophie, who suffers from loud noise phobias.
The Thundershirt is used to reduce or eliminate noise phobias, separation anxiety, travel anxiety, crate anxiety and aid in general training. The thought is that the constant gentle pressure calms the nervous system, modeled after work by behaviorist Temple Grandin.
For mild to moderate cases of anxieties and phobias, it may help without the use of drugs. For severe cases, the Thundershirt should be part of a behavior modification program that may include medication in addition to behavior therapy.