My Pet World: How to help a dog who panics over fireworks
I was wondering with the Fourth of July coming if you can dedicate a column to how to deal with fireworks anxiety with your pets? I had a Maltese for 14 years that had no problem with fireworks, but now I have a little 18-month-old “shichon” who’s terrified of them. I really don’t know what to do. — Monica, Deer Park, New York
Fireworks are a real stressor for some dogs and cats. Dogs who are afraid of fireworks may tremble, pant, pace, hide, freeze in place or climb things. They may urinate or defecate out of fear. In extreme cases, dogs may even try to escape through doors or crash through windows to get away from the noise that they mistakenly believe is right behind them. Sadly, there’s no remedy, but sometimes a combination of strategies can reduce their reaction to fireworks.
My favorite remedy is an Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt, which are snug wearable products designed to comfort stressed dogs and cats. You also can search online for tutorials on “how to wrap your dog for anxiety with an ace bandage,” which provides the same effect.
Use pheromone plug-ins and sprays in the house and a pheromone collar on your dog to create a sense of calm. Start using them two weeks before the holiday. It won’t prevent your dog from reacting to the fireworks but may reduce the reaction.
Turn on a sound machine or listen to the radio or watch a movie with the volume turned up.
Sit in a walk-in closet with them during peak firework times since the hanging clothes can often provide some sound-proofing.
Add a few drops of Rescue Remedy, a flower essence that helps with anxiety, to their water dish. Look for over-the counter calming supplements or talk to your vet about medication you can give prior to a known event.
Finally, stay home with your pet if you know there will be fireworks. They will often feel safer if you are nearby.