With the Fourth of July around the corner, a day of energetic festivities often involving fireworks and loud noises, veterinarians are promoting tips on how to keep pets calm during the holiday.
For instance, Rolan Tripp, DVM, founder of the Animal Behavior Network, has made available to veterinarians free lobby posters and hand outs outlining canine fireworks noise phobia.
Dr. Tripp defines noise phobia as “an excessive, unreasonable fear response to specific loud noises. It is more common in dogs than cats and the most common noise phobias are to fireworks and thunder.”
For mild cases (somewhat anxious) or as prevention to fireworks phobia, Tripp suggests what he calls a “Fireworks Party.” Starting around July 2 to 3 either fast, or feed only ¼ of the early meal. Then at the first faint of fireworks, pet owners respond with a happy, “It’s a fireworks party!” The pet owner then gets a treat for the dog. From there on out, every boom triggers a “party snack” until the dog “happily” waits for the next boom.
“The idea is to turn the fear into joy,” Tripp said.
A dog appeasing pheromone collar can also be added, he said.
For moderate cases, those who do not have a response to the “party plan,” Tripp suggests medicating the pet for several hours on days when fireworks are expected. He recommends veterinarians prescribe benzodiazepines, also known as “Benzo” or “Dog Calming Pill.”
In severe cases (a panicking dog), Tripp recommends veterinarians combine the benzodiazepine with the sedative acepromazine.
Lorraine Corriveau, DVM, a wellness veterinarian at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, also suggests tips for lowering the noise stress of pets during July 4 fireworks.
“Owners must use common sense when they allow pets to join the festivities,” Dr. Corriveau said. “Some dogs like chasing those spinning and swirling objects on the ground. Others fear loud noises. Owners can use simple tricks like putting cotton in their pets’ ears to muffle the sound.”
Other tips include:
- Don’t leave pets alone outdoors, even if tethered or in a fenced yard. Keep small pets indoors, preferably in a room without windows.
- Make sure all sharp objects are removed from enclosures.
- Turn on the radio or TV for distraction.
- Do not take pets to fireworks shows.
- Do not leave a pet unattended.
- Keep pets on a leash or in a carrier if they must be outside.
- Protect animals from children who may not realize that waving sparklers or setting off “safe” firecrackers could upset pets.
- Keep identification tags current.
- Sedate dogs if needed.
- Desensitize the pet by playing CDs that contain noises of thunderstorms, fireworks or gunshots.
- Pick up leftover sparklers and other sharp objects when the night of festivities is over.