Summertime is the season of nice weather but also the time for fireworks and celebration. We may enjoy the views of bright lights and booms from afar; however for our furry babies fireworks are not fun and produce anxiety. Independence Day is one of the busiest days of the year in shelters due to many pets getting lost, injured, or killed from fear and anxiety. But there are ways to prevent and avoid these situations from happening. By identifying triggers of fear and finding remedies to counteract pet anxiety July 4th can be a day of celebration for everyone!
How to identify an anxious pet
Fear is a diffuse feeling of impending danger or threat. When an animal experiences fear, it can trigger a normal response of aggression (fight), running away (flight), or staying still (freeze). Each response depends on the pet’s personality. Since our pets cannot tell us when they are experiencing fear and anxiety; we have to rely on their behaviors and body postures as good clues to understand what they are feeling. Signs of anxiety can include panting, drooling, pacing, attention seeking behaviors (vocalizing, pawing, and climbing up on you or your furniture), hiding or trying to escape.
Pets will do better when not left home alone during firework events. If that is not possible prepare in advance before leaving them home alone. Bring all pets inside so they don’t try to escape out of their yards. Keep your pets secure in a “safe” room or one that they tend to stay in during the day or one that they sleep in at night. Even if you are keeping your pets securely locked indoors still keep their collars and ID tags on them. When you take your dog outside for a bathroom break keep them leashed. Contact your primary veterinarian to confirm they are microchipped and that the information is up to date in case their ID’s accidentally come off. Also, anxious pets tend to pant and July is a hotter time of year, make sure water is always accessible to avoid overheating and dehydration.
Drug free techniques
There are multiple ways to manage your pet’s anxiety without using medication as a primary remedy. Using techniques that you normally use throughout the day that do not trigger stress are easy ways to help keep our pets calm. Turning on the TV or putting on soothing music can help drown out the source of firework noise. Finding a favorite toy or stuffed animal to play with, or practicing tricks with food rewards are classical counter-conditioning techniques for positive association and fireworks.
Anxiety wraps such as ThunderShirt® are commonly used to place pressure on the body and can have a calming effect. For cats, Feliway is a synthetic pheromone spray to help relieve stress. Both of these items can be located at your local pet store or found online.
Other remedies include herbal relaxants; essential oil diffusers involving scents such as lavender, chamomile, and cedar wood promote soothing and calming effects.
The majority of firework shows come mainly in July, but practicing these techniques throughout the year will benefit your pet when other stressful events occur. If your find that your pet is still experience high anxiety during Firework season, please visit your primary veterinarian. They can go over further medical management including both short and long term treatment to help keep your pet calm at home during time of celebration! ©