Posted on 06-27-2017
The 4th of July will be here soon and with it, a long weekend of guests, parties & fireworks!
But what may be one of the best weekends of the summer for you can be 3-4 days of terror for your pet. Many dogs and some cats are terrified of loud noises. What is sometimes called "gun shy" can include fear of thunderstorms and fireworks. The first step in helping your pet through this scary time is recognizing your pet's symptoms. While some signs of distress are obvious, others not so much.
Different animals may display different signs of noise phobias which can include:
- Hiding (most common sign in cats)
- Trying to escape (digging, jumping through windows or going through walls, running away)
- Seeking the owner
- Expressing anal glands
- Not eating
- Not listening to commands
- Trembling or shaking
- Dilated pupils
- Vocalizing (barking or meowing)
Once you recognize that your pet is in distress, there are many things that you can do to help relieve their anxiety.
BEFORE THE EVENT
Identify your pet: More dogs and cats go missing from homes during the 4th of July Holiday than at any other time of year. Be sure that your dog is wearing a properly fitted collar with ID tags. These tags should include at minimum your pets name and your phone number. You may also want consider micro-chipping your pet in case they do manage to escape. Take a recent photo of your pet so that you have something for your neighbors to refer to in the event that you are combing the area looking for your escapee.
Create a safe haven: Some pets feel more comfortable in a small space such as a crate or a small room like a bathroom (run the fan and leave the lights on). Some pets seek out the safety of the bathtub or shower during a storm. (Some have hypothesized that a pet may feel less static electricity if on tile or porcelain.) If the pet is comfortable in a crate, the crate can be covered with a blanket to add to the feeling of security. The door to the crate should be left open and the pet should not be confined to the crate, which could dramatically increase the stress level. Some pets, especially cats, may find that a closet or area under the bed makes a good retreat.
Utilize a DAP: (Dog Appeasing Pheromone). Several days before the event plug the DAP in near the den. This emits pheromones that appeal to dogs and create a calming influence. Feliway is a similar product available for cats. Both of these products are available through our online store.
Increase vigorous exercise: Your pet should receive vigorous exercise daily, and more so on a day when the fear-producing noise is likely to occur. The exercise will help to tire the animal, both mentally and physically, and may make him/her less responsive to the noise. In addition, exercise has the effect of increasing natural serotonin levels, which can act as a sedative.
Reduce or block the noise level: "White noise," such as running a fan or air conditioner may aid in blocking out some of the fear-producing noise. Playing a TV or radio can have a similar effect. Allowing the pet access to the basement or a room without outside walls or windows may decrease the noise level. Closing the windows and curtains can also help reduce the noise.
DURING THE EVENT
Picnics & Cook-outs & Parties: Be sure to have a safe area for your pet to play away from the grill and any campfires. Ask your guests to help you keep the pet play confined to that area. Another big problem during picnics/cookouts is the abundance of food for your pet to get into. Many of our favorite summertime foods are very bad for your pet. While every so often a bite of hot dog is okay for Fido, a whole hot dog from several guests during one cook-out can be very harmful and at the very least, cause gastrointestinal distress. To include your dog in the yummies, provide a bowl of safe treats for your guests to give your pet (dry dog milk bone type treats and some of their own dry kibble can be given as safe treats. Or, for something fun, set out a a bowl of fresh or frozen green beans with which your guests can treat Fido.)
Provide Distractions: Give you pet a new special toy or chew as a distraction. Many dogs do well with a "Kong" type chew stuffed with treats and peanut butter that is then frozen for long term enjoyment. Purchase a new toy or a "puzzle toy" (one that dispenses treats as it is played with). Save this special treat for the day of the event. Make sure that all your doors and windows are securely latched to prevent escapes. Close curtains and windows to dampen the sound and turn on the radio or TV to mask the sound of the Fireworks.
Project a calm attitude: Pets are very aware of the mental state of their owners. If you are worried or nervous, this will add to the pet's fear. Your pet will look to you for direction, so keep an "upbeat" and "in charge" attitude.
Maintain good health and nutrition: Health problems may increase the stress level of pets, and increase their anxiety. For instance, a dog in pain because of hip dysplasia may be more irritable and prone to other behavior changes. Diets too high in protein have been linked to some behavioral problems. Consult your veterinarian if you would like advice about changing your pet's diet.
Routine: Try to keep the same routine during the event. Do not acknowledge any shaking, panting or crying from your dog - this may only add to his/her distress. MOST IMPORTANTLY - do NOT punish your pet for any abnormal behavior while they are stressed. This will not "cure" the behavior and may make it worse.
AFTER THE EVENT
Utilize a DAP: (Dog Appeasing Pheromone). Leave the pheromone scent plugged in for at least a week after the event.
Seek Professional Help: In severe cases of anxiety or fear you may want to seek our advice. Contact us for an appointment several days before the event if you already know you are going to have issues. Or, if you have tried all of the above suggestions and it did not go as well as you would have liked please contact us for a consultation.
Have a Happy and Pet Safe
4th Of July!
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