The Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve are exciting for those of us who enjoy watching fireworks; but owners who have pets with firework anxiety spend their time worrying about ways to help their pets cope with the noise, sounds and light flashes. Pets that experience anxiety are at risk of injury to themselves, destructive behavior, and escape. A variety of treatment options are available and include the following:

Medications: consult your veterinarian for appropriately selected medications to reduce anxiety.

Pheromones: commercially available pheromone products are species-specific and can have a calming effect. There are a variety of forms including diffusers, collars and sprays.

Pressure wraps: although not all animals respond to these soothing “thunder shirts,” they may be effective for some pets by making them feel safe, swaddled and secure.

Supplements: your veterinarian may recommend certain nutraceuticals that contain calming ingredients such as L-Theanine, CBD oils or Bach Flower remedies.

Provide a safe space: some pets seek small, tight, dark spaces like a closet, an insulated room or dark curtains to block light and noise. Outdoor pets should be brought inside.

Noise: some animals respond to white noise which blocks sound and vibration; others benefit from classical music or the distraction of a television kept at a high volume.

Behavior modification: training can change the way a pet responds to the sound of fireworks. Most protocols involve a process called desensitization and “counter conditioning.” This is a methodical process in which your pet is exposed to recordings of firework sounds at low levels whereby calm behavior is rewarded with high-value reinforcement like food. Another method is “classical conditioning” in which firework sounds are paired with positive reinforcements. Behavior modification programs for firework anxiety are not always easy to implement on your own. Many qualified trainers and behavior consultants can help tailor a protocol specifically for your pet.

Never use punishment: in pets with firework anxiety. While punishment may limit the outward expression of behaviors, it does not treat the underlying cause of anxiety.
Identification: many pets escape their yards or houses during fireworks; therefore an identification collar or a microchip may be the best chance of reuniting you with your pet. If your pet is not microchipped, please contact your veterinarian to have one implanted.

Unlike storms, many firework events are predictable. Planning ahead can greatly reduce you and your pet’s anxiety which will in turn provide safety, calm behavior and comfort.

Have a safe and sunny July! Dr. Bonnie