We are about to enter peak season for patriotism and while the thrill of fireworks can be one of the best parts of summer, for families with pets that have noise phobias it can be terrifying.
Animal shelters are predictably inundated with high numbers of pets that are lost or injured while trying to escape the sights and sounds of July 4th or Bastille day. Sadly, pets even lose their lives as their plight leads them into busy streets or other dangers.
Here’s help on how to cope and still enjoy the best parts of summer!
An ounce of prevention is much easier than coping with a pet that is already in an extreme fear state. Consider some of the following tips:
• Get away from it all – If your pet gets spooked by the explosive sounds and lights, plan to be someplace where fireworks aren’t permitted or have your pet stay with a friend or in a boarding facility in a fireworks free zone.
• Silence the noise – If getting away is impossible or impractical you can still avoid the worst effects of fireworks. Believe it or not there are “Mutt Muffs” and “calming caps” to minimize the noise and sites if fireworks.
“Thunder shirts” and “Anxiety Wraps” are so named for a reason. Some pets respond very well to these close-fitting garments.
• Drug-free help –products like Feliway and Adaptil (formerly DAP) are pheromone products that produce naturally occurring sensations of safety and contentment.
• Make your home a “safe” zone – Lower blinds and close curtains. Close windows and have your pet in a basement or central area of the home that is insulated from the loudest outdoors sounds. Turn up the volume on some music or a movie with a rhythmic beat that can mask the sound.
• Don’t leave your frightened pet alone! A scared animal may try to dig or crash through windows or doors or squeeze into overly tight spots (under a bed or behind furniture) as they try to protect themselves. It’s hard for them to tell where the sound is coming from. So, indoor pets may try to run outside. The result can be injury to themselves or your home.
• An outdoor pet should be an indoor pet at times like this. Even cats that are “street smart” can freak out with sudden thundering sounds and flashing lights. Bring them in and if you can’t, make sure they have proper identification tags. But, collars and tags can get lost so better yet a microchip!
• Talk to your veterinarian about medications for anxiety. Some medications take days or weeks before the best results are seen. But others can produce effects within a few hours. Many of these will produce some sedation. Often a combination of medication, drug-free help and muffling or calming techniques can work wonders.
Measure your success!
• If your pet is relaxed and interactive, mission accomplished!
• If you’re noticing excessive panting, pacing, trembling, drooling, clinginess, or hiding, more intervention may be needed. More sound and sight blocking, more medication or get out that thunder jacket. Perhaps move to a basement room or a room in the center of the house without windows.• If your pet is overtly trying to escape then it may be time to pack up and go for a few hours before he or she does escape or injures themselves in the attempt.
Get busy now for Next Year
Once you’ve made it through July 4th, 2018, know that these anxieties and phobias tend to escalate over time without actively doing something to counteract this. Behaviorists recommend various forms of behavioral modification and counter conditioning. These are best accomplished before the fear associated with fireworks is extreme. By establishing positive associations with gradually increasing levels of noise over time and/or helping your pet develop positive coping mechanisms (successful hiding in a safe place such as a well-padded crate in a low-noise are) can be a miracle. Successfully implementing these techniques requires a little dedication and help from a skilled hand. Now’s the time to start working toward a safer 4th of July next year with our trainer/behaviorist Erica.