What to Do If Your Pet is Afraid of Fireworks or Bad Weather

What to Do If Your Pet is Afraid of Fireworks or Bad Weather

Wednesday, 26 June 2019 18:36

Summer brings unique experiences: many people enjoy sitting on the porch or watching a thunderstorm from the safety of their homes, and July 4th celebrations are usually capped off by stunning fireworks displays. For pets, though, these seasonal events can be frightening and stressful. How can you help keep them weather the storm, so to speak, and remain calm?

July 3rd: The Busiest Day of the Year at the Vet’s Office

Veterinarians report that July 3rd is typically the busiest day of the year at their practices; many pet owners (primarily those with dogs) come in to get drugs for their furry friends. Anticipating panic and, perhaps, destructive behavior, they hope to give their pets a little chemical relief.

Thunderstorms, too, can produce extreme anxiety in some pooches. With weather or fireworks, you may see your dog pacing excessively, panting, whining, clinging to you, or hiding under furniture or in closets. They may also chew and try to claw through windows, screens, or doors. In extreme cases, they may even try to go through the drywall!

This is serious; it is pure fear. They do not want to be “bad.” They are truly terrified or deeply unsettled by these booming sounds, as well as the wind, low-frequency sounds we can’t hear, lightning, and changes in barometric pressure. Additionally, if you yourself are a bit fearful during storms or firework shows, they pick up on this. It can exacerbate their reaction.

In addition to pet (and human) stress and property destruction, storms and fireworks also increase the risk that your four-legged friend will panic and break free. We also see an uptick in the number of lost pets during these events. Summer, and particularly Independence Day, is the busiest time of year for shelters as well.

Dealing with the Fear of Fireworks and Bad Weather

What can you do to help your pet stay calm?

  • Reward calm behavior consistently. During a storm or fireworks show, there’s a tricky balance to maintain. You don’t want to scold your pet (it will scare them more), but neither do you want to unintentionally reward or encourage panicky behavior by consoling them.
  • Practice having your dog settle on command - before you need them to do it in a scary situation. Put them on a special “inside” leash and have them lie at your feet. Praise their calm behavior. This way they know what to do at the first crack of thunder or launch of pyrotechnics.
  • Distract them. Offer your pet his favorite toy, play a game, or simply pet him. As long as he is calm, praise him and give him treats. A Kong filled with frozen peanut butter or other preferred treats is also a handy tool to bring out!
  • Keep your dog inside. Do not bring your pet to a fireworks show. He will not enjoy it! If you are going, keep him inside. If he is crate-trained, secure him in there. He will feel safer, and it will help you avoid destructive chewing and clawing. If he is not crate-trained, he may feel better in a small, enclosed space. Whether it’s in the bathtub or under your desk, having a “safe space” can be helpful. Unless in a crate, make sure he can come and go as he chooses; some dogs are much more anxious if they know they are confined. They’ll panic.
  • Make sure they’re tired. As they say, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Give him plenty of exercise earlier in the day and then practice calm.
  • Remove visual stimulation. Close the blinds or curtains. If your dog is in a crate, placing a blanket over it can help as well.
  • Try some innovative products - with input from your vet. If your pet displays excessive anxiety during storms or fireworks, talk to your vet about options like snug garments (like swaddling, this can reduce anxiety and help calm your dog) or psychoacoustically designed music. This is designed to soothe dogs and can be played a few hours before the fireworks (or a storm, if you know it’s coming) and right on through until the outside stimulation is over. The hope is your dog associates it with calm and relaxation.
  • Make sure your pet has ID. Your pet’s identification tags should be secured to a collar that fits properly. No one wants to lose a pet, but if that should happen, ID helps ensure they come back home sooner - and, of course, safely.

If your pet is afraid of fireworks or bad weather, please come and see the team at Avery Creek Pet Hospital. Often, medication is not necessary (unless your pet experiences severe symptoms). We can help point you towards other safe ways to help him keep calm.