You may already know this from previous blogs, but we’re entering into the time of year that my little dog Vyv likes to call “The Coming of the Dogpocalypse”. Although we’ve had many discussions, I’ve yet to convince him that the sky is actually not falling and that it really isn’t the “End of Days”. My poor Tooty Frooty! What’s a dog to do? Luckily, there are several things that we can do to help our Fearful Fido’s and Frightened Felines make it through this confusing and scary holiday.
Here are Vyvyan’s best tips for making the Fourth of July safe and happy for everyone:
- Exercise your dog early in the day when there is little chance of fireworks going off. Make sure that you have him on a leash or in a fenced in area just in case.
- More pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year! Animals in a fearful state can go to drastic measures to escape their yards in an attempt to find safety. Make sure your pet is wearing ID tags on a properly fitting collar, even if they are microchipped. (Is your pet not chipped? They should be!)
- Keep your pet indoors in a safe area, starting a few hours before sunset. Closing windows and doors, as well as providing some music (like soft classical or specially created “soothing” music) or white noise will be helpful in softening the sounds coming from outside. Be careful playing tv or radio stations as they will often be playing loud, booming patriotic music.
- Give your pet some fun things to do in their safe area. This is when you get to bust out all the fun feeder toys! Fill up two or three with your pet’s meal (and some special treats!) then give them one at a time throughout the evening to keep him busy.
- Don’t be afraid to comfort your pet! Although you’ve likely been told that comforting your pet will reward them for their fearful behavior, it is just not true. Fear is a physiological and involuntary response to danger and thus cannot be rewarded. In fact, if your pet is comforted by your presence, it may make him a little less fearful to be near you. (Good thing too, because I have to carry Vyv around the whole night!)
- Use of body wraps such as the Thundershirt or a calming pack like the Calmz Anxiety Relief System can be helpful in decreasing anxiety in some noise phobic pets. As with any product though, your pet should be comfortable wearing it and shouldn’t be left unsupervised with it on.
- Medications can help. There are several medication choices that may be appropriate for your pet to use. Talk to your veterinarian about what may work for your pet. Do this sooner rather than later as not all medications work for all pets and you may need to do trials with 1 or more medications to find the right one. Be aware though that not all medications are proper for treating fireworks anxiety. Acepromazine is a common sedative that was routinely used for fireworks anxiety in the past. Although it does have sedative properties, it has no anti-anxiety benefits and has also been shown to make animals more sensitive to noises. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) has also been used often in the past, but like acepromazine, it only causes some sedation and does nothing for the anxiety.
- Vyv’s #1 Tip: Start planning for next year! Using a combination of training and desensitization will be key in teaching your pet that those sounds aren’t as scary as they used to be. Since he has been through his training, Vyv continues to run over to me for a tasty treat when he hears the loud pop of a firecracker. I’m so proud!
If you would like more information on how to keep your pet safe this year, or how to help prepare for next year, please let us know!
Have a Safe and Happy Independence Day Everyone!