As the holiday approaches, take some time out to consider the safety and comfort of your pet(s). While the Fourth of July is a time for fireworks and celebration, for many pets and their owners it can be a nightmare. As many pet lovers know, fireworks and thunderstorms can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for some animals. Fear of loud noises such as fireworks, thunder, and gunshots is called noise phobia. Nervous behaviors include: shaking, trembling, whimpering, panting, excessive drooling, howling, barking, refusing to eat, trying to hide or get into/out of the house/fence/or other enclosure, losing control of bladder or bowels or experiencing stress diarrhea. Your anxious pet cannot control its reactions in these situations. Fortunately, many therapies are available to help with this condition. Behavior modification techniques alone work well for some pets, while others may need medications or other supplemental therapies in addition to behavior modification to stay safe and not injure themselves trying to “escape” the noise. As always, the staff at Hope Animal Medical Center is happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding noise phobias in your pet.
Here are a few safety tips regarding fireworks and other noises:
- Leave your pets at home and indoors. While it may be tempting to bring your pets along so everyone can enjoy the fun, loud noises are not usually fun for pets. Most pets are afraid of fireworks and may try to run away.
- Close all doors and windows while keeping your pet indoors. Keep your pets safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home. Close curtains and blinds to block the flashing lights. Try putting on classical music or other soothing background music as a distraction.
- Provide a safe “escape” place. It is important that your pet has a place they consider safe if they become stressed. Many times pets seek out den-like places (like a crate) when they become fearful. If you do have a crate, try to create a comfortable place and familiarize your pet with it before it’s needed.
- Try to distract your pet with chew toys and busy games, or try a thundershirt (www.thundershirt.com) , or play with another pet that does not have fear and anxiety.
- Use a leash or carrier. If you must be outside with your pet, keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier at all times.
- Take your pet for a walk ahead of time. If time, make sure your pet has time to use the restroom before the fireworks start. Some pets become afraid once fireworks start and this may lead to an accident later.
- Make sure your pet is wearing the proper identification tags or it has a microchip. It is important that this information is current and visible in case your pet gets frightened and runs away. This will help local authorities find and identify your pet.
- If you can plan ahead, desensitize your pet to the noise. Try using appropriate sound CDs such as thunder, fireworks, trains, and/or sirens to help pets get used to the noise at a lower volume. Then, as they become more comfortable, gradually increase the volume.
- Never use fireworks around pets! Practice fire safety. Keep your pet away from matches, lighter fuel, open fires, and fireworks. Your curious pet may try to sniff at the fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch on fire. While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.
- Speak with the staff at Hope Animal Medical Center. If you believe your pet has noise phobias, call or come in to discuss the variety of remedies we have available. We have natural homeopathic remedies, as well as anti-anxiety medications that can help keep your pet calm during the fireworks and thunderstorm seasons.
- Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
- Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing – or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.
- Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellant product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals (or use baby-safe products). Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellant that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
- Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestion can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.
- Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, and do not allow them to play with it. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestion, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.
- Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pets severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. And, keep in mind that foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals.