Start NOW to Help Pets Fearful of Fireworks
If your pet is fearful of fireworks, and you start right now – this behavior modification technique may mitigate the terror. Enhance your chances in generally anxious dog (which many dogs with fireworks fears might be) using a nutraceutical product (further explained below) or beginning a regiment with the Calmer Caline (also explained below).
Find a YouTube for fireworks (which there are dozens of choices). Begin by playing the sounds at a very low level through your computer speakers or on your phone, 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 pump it up 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 sound with something enjoyable, such as special treats or a favorite toy.
This method can be a game changer, but takes a client with patience. This method may resolve terror in some dogs, reduce the fear in other dogs and for some dogs make no difference whatsoever.
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.
For dogs, plug in an Adaptil diffuser, and for cats, a Feliway Classic diffuser. Each is a copy (analog) of naturally occurring pheromones to help each species to feel more comfortable in their own environments. Plug in those pheromones before the Fourth; don’t wait until the actual holiday.
There are today so many nutraceuticals available online and at brick and mortar pet stores. However, only this pawful truly have scientific efficacy:
Zylkene: 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 situation 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 contents sprinkled on dog or cat food.
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.
Zentrol: A formulation for natural stress management that has been shown to help reduce stress-related behaviors in as little as 60 minutes. The chewable tablets contain novel natural ingredients.
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.
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 product 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 can 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.
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 therefore likely 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 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 would take as long to offer benefits for fear of fireworks.
Easy to Implement
Many dogs or cats aren’t in full terror mode but still something should be done so they don’t worsen. Combine several products, such as pheromones with perhaps a nutritional supplement and a nutraceutical of choice – as well enticing the dog or cat with play and treats. If children routinely have fun with puppy, fireworks displays are a great time for games. Giving high value treats in Kong toys or food puzzles can be an effective distraction as well.
Of course, close the 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.
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” psychopharmaceutical intervention may be a serious consideration and 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’s also Trazadone and other psychopharmaceutical options that aren’t mentioned. Of course, 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 the problem.