The 4th of July is right around the corner and if your dog gets upset, scared, or downright terrorized by the fireworks, know that there are quite a few things we can do to help them through.
The #1 best thing you can do is to PLAN AHEAD and if your dog is downright terrified, plan and work with your dog all year long!
That said, here are some options that can help many dogs. Understand that every dog is different and their level of fear will also be different, so try things to see how your dog responds and know that layering can help quite a bit, so maybe 3 or 4 of these things help your dog and the point is to help them as much as possible.
This post has been updated for 2022 because this past New Year, in our new home, in a new state, with new neighbors, the fireworks were going off for hours and very close to our house. She had a very rough night because 1. I didn’t know they were going to set off fireworks for New Year, so we didn’t prepare ahead of time, and 2. since we didn’t have a plan in place ahead of time, what we did during the fireworks only helped about 50%.
The Thundershirt is great for storms, fireworks, and even general anxiety. Find the one that fits your dog (or cat) the best. It works by applying a slight pressure around your dog’s body, similar to a hug.
I have used the Thundershirt before with my dog Claire and I can say that it worked for her!
During the fireworks this past New Year, I did use the Thundershirt with Kim and it helped quite a bit, allowing her to settle down some. It wasn’t a cure-all for her, but it was definitely helpful and we will be using it again.
2. animalEO Calm-A-Mile
Y’all know how much I love animalEO and their Calm-A-Mile blend is designed using Chamomile, Cypress, Frankincense, and more to help your pet deal with stressful situations.
I wouldn’t stop at Calm-A-Mile though, because essential oils have so many wonderful effects on the body. I would also recommend regular use of Aroma Boost (or even Kitty Boost if you have a small dog).
3. Flower Essences
Flower Essences are different from essential oils in that flower essences are odorless, are extracted with water, and are believed to contain the energetic imprint of the flowers. That may sound a little “woo” to some of you, but if you look at the over 8,000 reviews for Bach’s Rescue Remedy, giving it 4 stars, you’ll want to give it a try!
I just recently purchased some for our drive from California to Texas. I’ll add it to my cat’s food but I also intend to make a water mist with it after reading an email from homeopathic veterinarian Dr. Will Falconer. He said to simply take a 2oz or 4oz spray bottle, add distilled water and 4 drops of Rescue Remedy, hit it aginst your hand hard about 10-12 times, and spray the air above or around your pet. I’m going to give it a try!
New for us this year, and specifically for this 4th of July, we are trying HomeoPet Fireworks. I’ll let you know if this works.
4. Control your anxiety
Yes, this is easier said than done, but it is so incredibly important! Our emotions transfer to our pets, so if we pre-empt their reaction and stress over the anticipated response from your dog, then guess what? That’s exactly how they will respond. Give your dog a fighting chance and release your stress!
Rodney Habib of Planet Paws brought us evidence not too long ago about how much our stress really does affect our pets. In fact, if you are stressed or anxious, even taking a shower and changing your clothes can help decrease the transfer to your pet!
5. Work on desensitization
Desensitization takes time. It’s not something that you can do for a few days before the fireworks begin, it’s something that for many dogs can take months, sometimes longer. One way to help your dog cope with loud noises is to begin playing the noises at a very – and I mean very – low volume, barely audible. You can do this in combination with any other supplements we’ve already mentioned.
As long as your dog is not showing signs of fear or stress, you can, over time, slowly begin to increase the volume. I wouldn’t do this for extended periods of time, especially not at first.
This is something that you will have to be very honed into your dog’s feelings to do well. Only move forward when and if your dog is ready to do so.
This is a wireless speaker that plays relaxing music/sounds that are designed to help your pet destress. This is not the same as relaxation music for dogs or cats that you can find on YouTube, though those can sometimes be helpful and we did use them with some luck in combination with the Thundershirt on New Year.
This is new for us this go around, so I will update you on how well it works.
7. Pharmaceuticals – as necessary
This is usually the last resort for me, but seeing how Kim reacted to New Year, I want to be prepared. We got a prescription filled for Doggy Xanax and have it on hand just in case.
🌟 Dr. Judy Morgan also recommends a few other natural supplements that I haven’t tried with my pets, but if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me! She sent this in an email, otherwise, I would link it here for you. You can join her mailing list at her website https://drjudymorgan.com/
1. Homeopet’s TFLN (Thunderstorms, Fireworks, and Loud Noises) – Besides having a great name, I love this product because it is homeopathic and non-sedating. A few drops given three times on the day of the fireworks will help keep the dogs calm. (This has been renamed FIREWORKS, as noted above)
2. Nutricalm by Rx Vitamins for Pets – This product contains a combination of Valerian, tryptophan, ashwaganda, catnip, and L-theanine, which produces a calming effect for pets. Again, this product should be started a few days prior to the fireworks. This product is safe to use long-term.
3. Hemp products – CBD has a calming effect on pets. Many options are available on the market, but not all are equally effective. Always buy from a trusted source.
Regarding CBD, you will see if you click the link that one of the companies is CBD Dog Health. I have purchased from them in the past and the only note I have here is that the taste makes it difficult for cats. I’ve seen dogs eat it up! but my cats, not so much.
When The Fireworks Go Off
At the moment, when your dog is shaking and whining, sometimes all preparation and forethought seem to be gone. I know when my dog is hurting, all I want to do is stop the pain for them.
It is good to have a plan in place, even written down if you need to, to reference in the moment, especially if you didn’t prepare far enough in advance, or if this is the first time you and your dog have been through fireworks or storms together, you may not have known how your dog would react.
Here are some tips on what to do at the moment:
1. Close the curtains or blinds to help block flashes of light
2. Put soothing music on the radio, or a calming show on TV. YouTube also has calming dog music that plays 24 hours. We will be using the RelaxoPet EASY Relaxation Trainer.
3. Move in your home to the middle of the house, or even a basement if you have it, to help drown the noise and lights.
4. Diffuse animalEO veterinary grade essential oils (Calm-A-Mile is my go-to here) and place the Thundershirt on your dog.
5. Anytime your pet is calm, reward them! And anytime you are successful in distracting your dog from the noise, reward that too! It is also worthwhile to provide a yummy stuffed Kong or RMB (raw meaty bone) as a distraction. For some dogs, they may not be able to relax enough, but it’s worth a try!
6. Make sure your pet has identification on, and if you have to go outside for potty breaks, make sure they are on a leash.
7. If you know that your pet is very sensitive to noise and nothing has worked for you in the past, you may choose to use Doggy Xanax. This is best given 1-2 hours PRIOR to the onset of fireworks.
🌟 BONUS 🌟
I’ve mentioned before Dr. Will Falconer’s Vital Animal podcast. I’ve binged every episode and I (anxiously) await every new episode.
There are always little tidbits in each episode that make you say “OOHHH!” and I wanted to mention some here.
First, we talk about diet all the time, but there is some science out there that would lead us to believe that our brains don’t actually control our bodies and emotions. Instead, the bacteria in the gut tell the brain what to do and then the signals go from the brain to the rest of the body.
That’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at it, sure, but I like to break things down as simply as possible to be able to tell other people and to help me remember!
If this is true, and I think the more we learn about the gut the more it is to be believed, then what we put into the body matters so much more than we could have previously imagined! Not only does food fuel our bodies, but it literally controls our brains and our emotions.
Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Becker have written a book called The Forever Dog which will be available later this year. One of the things they talk about in the book, as Rodney has hinted, is anxiety in dogs and how “research suggests that supplementing a mildly anxious dog’s diet with DHA and EPA (omega-3s) can have anti-anxiety benefits.”
And to further the message, think about what damage over-vaccination causes. We have barely scratched the surface of what we know can be damaged in the body due to vaccines, both in dosage and in the frequency of injection. It’s not a stretch, in my opinion, to conclude that vaccine dose and frequency can play a role in anxiety in our dogs.
Food for thought!