Fireworks and Pets: Make a Difference Today
If your pet has been fearful of fireworks in the past, it’s a good bet your pet will be at least equally as fearful this coming July Fourth.
Begin dealing with the issue today implementing behavior modification you can do at home; all you require are sounds of fireworks (YouTube, for example, can provide that) and a speaker to play those sounds, even a phone will do.
Because you may know your pet is already fearful, you can cut that anxiety some beginning with a nutraceutical product, such as Zylkene (described below) and or nutritional supplement, called Calming Care (also described below) or regimen without adverse effects called the Calmer Canine (also described below).
Find a YouTube for fireworks (there are dozens of choices). Begin by playing the bangs and booms at a very low level, all while distracting the dog (or cat) with play or by offering high-value food or treats placed inside a toy. At first, the pet is far from the speakers (or the phone), but ever so gradually move the pet closer and simultaneously pump up the volume.
If the pet becomes concerned, you’ve gone too far too fast. Move the pet further from the speakers or your phone, and lower the volume, then gradually make it louder again.
The idea is twofold: First to help the pet feel more comfortable with the sounds of fireworks. And second to re-associate that once fearsome sounds with something enjoyable, such as special treats or a favorite toy.
This method can be a game changer, but takes a client with patience, and you can’t begin on July 3 – this will take a few weeks, at least. This method may resolve or reduce in some pets but not all.
Remember, pets terrorized of fireworks are likely having a panic attack.
Pheromones, Nutraceuticals, Probiotics
Sometimes dogs with a fear of loud sounds may be generally anxious. If that’s the case, the products noted below are a good idea anyway to help take the edge off, enhancing the pet’s quality of life every day, and may support receptivity to behavior modification training described above.
There are today so many nutraceuticals available online and at brick and mortar pet stores. However, only this pawful truly have scientific efficacy:
Zylkene: “The official calming supplement of the Fourth of July.” As their website says, helps pets to find their “zen.” Zylkene contains bovine-sourced hydrolyzed milk protein, an ingredient that has been shown to have calming properties, particularly for situational stress and to loud noises. Like great granny used to say, “If you’re upset, drink a glass of warm milk.” Great granny was right. These are tablets which can be opened and the palatable contents sprinkled on dog or cat food. Learn more at www.happypets.com.
ANXITANE (L-Theanine) Chewable Tablets help pets keep calm and relaxed. Containing a pure synthetic form of L-Theanine, an amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves, ANXITANE Tablets are a palatable option that both cats and dogs.
Solliquin: Soft chews with L-theanine, an amino acid found naturally in green tea, stimulates production of alpha brain waves, supporting relaxation and mental awareness.
Calming Care is a probiotic from Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets, which can be sprinkled on the dog’s food. A six-week supply of supplements contains a strain of beneficial bacteria known as BL999 that’s been shown to help keep dogs calm during stressful situations such as separation.
Pheromones: For dogs, plug in an Adaptil diffuser, and for cats, Feliway Optimum. Each is a copy (analog) of naturally occurring pheromones to help each species to feel more comfortable in their own environments.
While all these products are safe and there’s science to demonstrate effectiveness, still it’s strongly suggested to get input from a veterinary professional. By themselves, these products don’t usually resolve dogs or cats truly inconsolably phobic about fireworks; they are best used as an adjunct to other therapies or for dog or cats “mildly stressed” about the fireworks.
Anecdotal reports suggest that CBD for pets may help to relieve anxiety. There’s no published science – at least not yet. Also, not all CBD products are the same; the notion that all CBD products do no harm may not be true. Do consult a veterinary professional. However, depending on where you happen to live, local laws may not allow veterinary professionals to discuss these products, even though they may be readily available. Bottom line: Jury is still out.
A newer product that affects brain chemistry is called Calmer Canine. Created for dogs with separation anxiety, this device may also support dogs with anxiety regarding thunderstorms and fireworks.
The Calmer Canine looks like a halo and should be used for treatment by holding above the dog’s head or it can be worn attached to a vest (which come in different sizes).
The amygdala, the fight or flight center, is the area in the brain responsible for producing fear and emotional responses. An anxious brain is out of balance, not only hormonally, but also with overactive brain cells that produce harmful substances causing inflammation. Calmer Canine works by providing targeted pulsed electromagnetic field signals to the brain. These signals are invisible, sensation-free, and have no known adverse reactions. What is known is the ability to lower anxiety. This effective option is great for pets unable to take pharmaceuticals (anti-anxiety medication) or pet parents who prefer a drug-free option.
Typically, the product takes a month to six weeks to assist dogs with separation anxiety and presumably could take as long to offer benefits for fear of fireworks, but It’s not uncommon to witness improvement sooner.
Easy to Implement
Close windows (to lessen the sounds) and pull down the shades. Turn on relaxing music or your favorite talk radio station. A Sound Beginning, icalmpet, or other sites (including many free online) have specially produced music to relax dogs and cats. And distract with food puzzles or better yet, the kids (or anyone) interacting with the pet in a fun way.
Each of the following options has potentially calming effects and is something dogs can wear:
- Thundershirt: A vest that applies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant – originally created for dogs fearful of storms.
- Storm Defender: a cape with a special lining that surrounds your dog.
- Anxiety Wrap: uses acupressure and gentle, maintained pressure to help relieve stress and fear in dogs.
If the pet’s terror level is high, with signs that include shaking, excessive salivation, incontinence, decreased appetite, or seeming “inconsolable” consider psychopharmaceutical intervention as arguably the most humane choice.
SILEO oromucosal gel (rubbed on a dog’s gums) is targeted for noisy times such as fireworks or thunderstorms. In about 30 minutes to an hour SILEO takes full effect, and lasting two to three hours. SILEO is not labeled for cats.
There are additional psychopharmaceutical options; contact your veterinarian.
A Final Word
The old notion about consoling a terrified pet only serves to reinforce fear is simply untrue. You can’t reinforce such a powerful emotion. In fact, some pets can be calmed when pet parents pay attention and use soothing words. Calming our pets when they are fearful can help them feel more comfortable in the moment but kindness alone rarely solves this problem. For many pets getting ahead of the issue is the secret.