Help Dogs Terrified on July 4; Is It Too Late?


Q: Why are pets so afraid of fireworks?

A: They’re loud. Worse they’re even louder in bunches . If you are close enough, pets may smell them, and even feel their vibrations. From the pets’ perspective, no one has explained to them that they are supposed to be beautiful to watch, and that these awful blasts are associated with a patriotic day; since most pets don’t have a calendar- the blasts are unexpected.

At this late date, there’s not much to do. Benadryl is often suggested…So, if the Benadryl does work to make the pet tired…Now, you have a sleepy and terrified dog, Benadryl or acepromazine aren’t the answer, for sure. True psycho pharmaceuticals, can help, however,  but they’re not instant soup. Try to remember for next year. These drugs will likely help but do require time to get into a the pet’s system.

You can’t buy doggy ear plugs. But you can place your dog into a room that is as soundproof as possible (a basement?), and pump up the music or turn on the TV (loud) for distraction. Even better are specific types of music, classical seems to be better than old-fashioned rock ‘n roll.

Again, an idea for next year – actually purchase music specifically made to calm anxious canines.

Victoria Stilwell’s Noise Phobia CD:  Stilwell is a dog trainer, and host of Animal Planet’s, “It’s Me or the Dog.”

 THROUGH A DOG’S EAR – Using Sound to Improve the Health& Behavior of Your Canine Companionby Joshua Leeds & Susan Wagner DVM, Published March, 2008 by Sounds True.

A Sound Beginning: Setting the Right Tone for Your Newly Adopted Dog, by dog trainers Julie Dorsey-Oskerka, Pat Rattray, Rebecca Cann and musician Lesley Spencer, 2013 book includes a CD.

So, what can you do now? For starters, have a party! If your dog enjoys children, have the neighborhood over for a (dog) cookie and pizza party. Everyone should play with the dog, offer extra attention – assuming the dog can be distracted. However, some dogs are too terrified to even play their favorite game (or eat cookies);  these dogs definitely should be considered as candidates for  psychco pharmaceuticals next year). There’s a fine line between sympathizing with their fear (which is humane) and coddling the a fearful dog. Offering too much attention may only serve to intensify the fear.

Run out to the pet store to purchase a ThundershirtAnxiety Wrap, or Storm Defender. While these outfits (looks like your dog is wearing a cozy jacket or a super hero cape) don’t help all terrified dogs, in many they do adjust the level of fear. Some dogs are even “cured.”

Pheromone therapy can also potentially help right now (depends on the pet), and sure won’t do any harm.  Pheromones are species-specific chemicals that influence behavior. Feliway is a copy of a soothing cat pheromone, and the same for Adaptil for dogs, the latter is a copy of a pheromone found in the milk of nursing mother dogs. Buy the Adaptil collar (which will go wherever the dog does).

Royal Canin CALM is a prescription diet with unique calming nutrients, though the affect may not be as immediate as you desire (this product is for cats and smaller dogs).

I know people who no longer like the July 4 holiday just because they anticipate how terrified their dog will be. I understand. But my hope is that people know if doesn’t need to be that way – all you need is – next year – advance preparation  Often dogs who are very fearful of fireworks feel the same way about thunderstorms. If that is your dog, do consider asking your veterinarian for help.