Dogs and Fireworks: Basically, they don’t mix.
Missing Pets Skyrocket from July 4-6
Only 14% of lost pets are reunited with their owners.
Make sure your dog has proper I.D.Your pets should wear I.D. with their name and your current phone number. Also consider microchipping as a form of permanent I.D. Even if your pet loses their tag, shelters and vets can scan for a microchip and facilitate a happy reunion.
50% of dogs have a fear of loud noises.
Fireworks were reported (in 83% of those dogs) to cause fearful behaviors. This is more than any other loud noise (e.g. thunderstorms, though they are #2 on the list).
Only 4% of dogs who develop a sound phobia improve without help.Pets can become sound sensitive even if they haven’t previously reacted to noise. Once a dog is “exposed” and develops fear, spontaneous recovery is very rare. Keep your dogs indoors on firework nights. This will limit their noise exposure—and they’ll find a safe, familiar place comforting.
sources: http://www.rspca.org.uk/ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232713012401&mode=prd and http://www.bsava.com/Advice/PolicyStatements/ManagementandTreatmentofFireworkPhobias/tabid/495/Default.aspx
Common anxious reactions to loud noises
- Seeking out People
- Destructive Behavior
- Peeing or Defecating
In studies, the dogs most prone to develop sound phobias:
- Older Dogs: Why? The study we reviewed didn’t provide an explanation but some theories are that older dogs may be less able to manage stress or may actually be more sound sensitive. Decreased mobility and age-related cognitive issues may also play a part.
- Autumn/Winter Born Dogs: The likely explanation: Unlike spring/summer borns, thunderstorms and fireworks weren’t part of their puppyhood so these events are more frightening to them.
What you can do to help
Keep your pets indoors on fireworks nights. Do not take them to a fireworks display.Keeping them indoors will prevent them from direct exposure to the noise and will keep them safe in case the panic and try to flee. If they seem worried, it’s ok to try to calm or distract them. Just don’t act worried about them because that will feed their anxiety.
Escape proof your home in case of a panicking pet:
• Close and lock (or close and block) pet doors
• Screens won’t hold back a pet reacting in fear and trying to escape. Close screened windows and screened doors.
Give them things they love to keep them busy during the booms (so they won’t be as worried about the noise).
Stuff and freeze a Kong, bone or consider other long lasting interactive chewies like bully sticks, or appropriately sized elk antlers or Nylabones.
NOTE: Some pets may be too nervous to eat but perhaps you can entice them to play with you as a way of distracting them from the noise. If none of that works, don’t force them. Shutting down a little is likely their way of coping with the loud sounds.
If your dog has already displayed sound sensitivity, be proactive and consider the following things that have been proven to help:
- A Pressure Wrap* Thundershirt is the one that we recommend and have seen success with. It won’t make all anxiety disappear completely but it can certainly take the edge off for your dog.
- Pheromone spray* Adaptil is a synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromone released by a mother dog to reassure her puppies. You can spray it on bedding or a bandana. We recommend it to clients and the manufacturer has research to prove that it helps. Their site even has a 5-minute fireworks fear assessment tool
- Music Desensitization/counter-conditioning CDs like Through the Dog’s Ear to play while in the home (CD or download on Itunes) or Sound Therapy 4 Pets has a “Sounds Scary” (pre-fireworks therapy edition)” download on iTunes. If you have a puppy you can even try sound exposure on your own—when INDOORS play fireworks sounds at low volume for 30 sec up to 2 or 3 minutes and treat with food while listening to habituate your pup to this sound and prep the dog for future exposure.
- Medication Consult with your vet or a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist for possible medication to help during acute situations such as the 4th of July. Note: Acepromazine which is a sometimes still prescribed for sound sensitivity-actually can INCREASE your dog’s sound sensitivity. See 1:50 mark here
sources: http://thundershirt.com/Docs/2011-Thundershirt-Dog-Anxiety-Survey-Final-Key-Findings-Summary-May-2011.pdf, http://doyoubelieveindog.blogspot.com/2012/12/fireworks-not-fun-for-everyone-or-every.html
It’s sad to see dogs suffer from fear, phobias and anxiety but with their humans looking out for them and getting guidance from experts, it’s possible to help them cope.If you live in the Greater Philadelphia area, feel free to pick our brain about your dog—no charge. To find out more one-on-one training, behavior consults or group classes visit http://www.opportunity-barks.com
We hope all our readers and their dogs stay out of the fireworks fray and have a safe and happy 4th!