Keep your dog safe this 4th of July
By Dr. Anne Chauvet,
For people, fireworks are fun, but for dogs and other pets they are loud, unpredictable and the sort of noise that can induce an overwhelming sense of fear. Firework phobia is often accompanied by other anxieties, such as fear of thunderstorms or separation anxiety.
What is the cause of such fear of fireworks? Frankly, it is unknown. Some dogs develop this fear early in life; for others it may manifest when they are few years old. It is possible that it can originate from being exposed to a sudden loud noise that is particularly disturbing. Such scary experience could cause a bad memory, a mental trauma resulting in a phobia. When it comes to fireworks, the anxious behavior may stem from the combination of the noise, the flash of light and the strong sulfur smell that comes after the explosion. Whether it’s noise, light or odor, the end result is the same – a very stressed animal.
Here a few good tips to help your four-legged family member cope with the scary noises.
- A good way to alleviate the fear would be to distract your dog from the loud noise by playing with him/her or engaging in a game with another animal.
- Turn on TV, play music, vacuum the floor or start the laundry to muffle the sound and cause a distraction.
- A new chew or toy is always a welcome addition to your dog’s life.
- Sometimes putting on a thundershirt helps relieve the noise-related anxiety.
- If you crate your dog, put him or her in it and cover the top with a blanket to create a safer environment. Close the blinds if your pet doesn’t have a crate.
- Don’t react to the sound. If you tense up anticipating your dog’s fear, he/she will read your body language as a reason to be scared.
Lastly, make sure your pet is safe and comfortable. Prepare the area (room), in which your dog will be during the fireworks display, by removing sharp objects he or she might bump into in panic. Give your dog food and plenty of water. If possible, stay with your pet – it will make this scary experience more bearable.
If you’ve tried everything and your dog still shows signs of extreme phobia, talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication or sedative to keep your dog calm during the fireworks.
Can such anxiety be treated? There’s a good chance you might be able to break the fear and there are a few ways of doing to try for next year’s Independence. First and foremost, if your dog shows signs of fear, such as running away to escape the noise, or shivering and hyperventilation, do not reward him/her by giving special attention, treats, stroking for comfort and reassurance. When you do this – it reinforces the fear instead of breaking it. You can desensitize your dog by getting him/her used to the sound. It might take some time, but it can be done by following these simple steps:
- Find a video or recording of fireworks.
- Play the video or recording at the lowest possible volume a few times during the day making sure you pair the sound with things your dog likes, such as treats, meals, play time.
- Slowly begin to raise the volume of the recording or video over the course of several days, and continue to pair the sound with the things your dog associates as being good or fun, like tossing the ball, or getting belly rubs.
- If the sound gets too loud and your dog begins to show signs of fear, immediately turn the volume down to the level at which he/she is comfortable again.
- Continue to raise the volume until your dog can hear the sound of fireworks without showing distress. This process takes time. Don’t rush it!
More pets are reported missing on July 4th than any other day of the year. Don’t let that be your dog! Make sure that your pet’s ID tags are up-to-date, keep them inside and safe.
Make sure that leash is short when you go out out. Happy 4th from Critical Vet Care. If you need more information, feel free to call 941-929-1818.