Fourth Around the Corner: What Now with Anxious Pets?
It’s not July Fourth quite yet, but in so many places, the fireworks have begun. I previously wrote a piece which included desensitization and counter-conditioning dogs so they won’t be fearful of fireworks, or will at least lesson their anxiety.
At this juncture, there’s no time for behavior modification.
The fear dogs and sometimes cats feel around fireworks falls into three buckets. Pick the bucket that best fits your pet, and admittedly doing so is somewhat subjective.
Pets who are uncomfortably nervous and anxious. They often find their own place to hide. Allow to find that secure hiding place or even help them to find one. There’s nothing wrong with soothing the animal with gentle pets and reassurance. Never pull a pet out from a hiding place, unless a dog needs to go potty.
Plug in an Adaptil pheromone diffuser (for dogs) and Feliway Classic pheromone diffuser (for cats). For mildly anxious animals, these products will help minimize distress and increase comfort in their own environments.
Close windows (to minimize fireworks sounds) and pump up calming classical music.
Very Worried and Anxious Pets
Pets who are more than just a bit uncomfortable, they clearly are really nervous, perhaps pacing, hypersalivating, some may hide, though some may just stick to you like Velcro.
Seclude the pet in a second bedroom, den or the basement. Close the blinds and shut the windows. And pump up calming music, such as classical tunes. For some animals, it’s more soothing to hear human voices on a talk radio station (of course, I’m a fan of playing my podcasts).
Again plug in Adaptil and/or Feliway.
Engage in play (or have the kids do it), which may require extra enticement. And/or stuff tuna or salmon for cats, or moist dog food or whatever the dog likes most into a sterilized bone or an appropriate toy, or a food puzzle.
And choose a ‘high artillery treat.’ Secret cat weapons can be mini marshmallows, olives or the Australian version of peanut butter called Vegemite. Secret weapons for dogs include low-salt and low-fat lunch meats, Braunschweiger (a type of pork liver sausage) or Cheez Whiz.
If the pet is busily engaged with a person or a toy or eating, the pet won’t simultaneously be afraid – so that’s why choosing a very highly motivating treat is important.
Also a pet who is terribly anxious may not eat or play in the first place if too anxious. If Adaptil and Feliway alone aren’t working, all is not lost. There are additional nutritional supplements outlined in this story, but even with Amazon’s speediest delivery, it’s unlikely that at this juncture you will receive them on time. Easily available is the Thundershirt: A vest that applies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant – originally created for dogs fearful of storms.
Inconsolable and Terrified Pets
Pets who can only be described as terrified or inconsolable. If you know this – based on previous July Fourth terrors – now is the time to contact your veterinarian to consider SILEO (dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel) for dogs. This oromucosal gel (which means it is applied to the pet’s gums) is quick-acting, and it’s labeled specifically for dealing with loud noises and takes only about 30 minutes to an hour to take full effect, and it typically lasts two to three hours. For cats, gabapentin is a possibility, as this drug for nerve pain and seizures in people turns out to calm cats very effectively.
Both these drugs may cause drowsiness. Arguably, drowsiness is much preferred to sheer terror.
After administering either of these drugs, or another drug suggested by your veterinarian (and there are others), return to the protocol described above .
The most commonly asked question today is regarding CBD products ability to calm nervous dogs or cats during fireworks, or for that matter any loud events, like thunderstorms. Truly, no studies have been done – so the answer is unknown.
Steve chats with Dr. Todd McCracken of Ceva about ways to get your pets ready for the 4th of July…