The Fourth of July is a great holiday to spend time with friends and family. Enjoy some BBQ and treats covered in red, white, and blue. But of course, the part of the night we all look forward to are the fireworks. While this holiday is meant to celebrate our independence with gorgeous light shows – unfortunately, it can be extremely stressful for our dogs.
Why is this holiday so stressful for them?
These firework shows are unexplained noises and stimuli for our dogs. Thus, their reaction may be to run away from these loud booming sounds. A sad fact is that more pets are lost around the 4th of July than any other time of the year. Animal Control Services shared that there is a 30%-60% increase in pets gone missing each year between July 4th and July 6th (PetAmberAlert). It makes sense as a survey performed by the ASPCA reports that 19% of lost pets are going missing after being scared by loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks.
Combine loud fireworks with other factors like…
Unsupervised dogs in the backyard
Friends and family going in and out of your home, which could allow for a dog to escape
Taking your dog to an unfamiliar place like a friend’s BBQ, a campground, or other outdoor space that may enhance their anxiety
…with that, you have the perfect combination for a dog to escape. It’s difficult to picture your dog running away, but it’s important to be ready no matter what. My biggest takeaway: Ensure your dog is microchipped!
As we approach the Summer holiday season, below you’ll find some tips to manage your dog’s anxiety
To preface, some signs of anxiety in dogs include pacing, panting, trembling, vocalizing, attention-seeking, hiding, or bolting.
Provide a secure and safe place for your dog to stay during the firework show
If your dog is crate-trained, this is a great option to have them stay during the fireworks with the gate locked. If they aren’t crate trained, try placing them in a familiar room with the doors and windows closed, a comfy bed, and a white noise sound machine turned on to distract them.
Thunder Buddies for Life
Pressure wraps likethunder shirts or anxiety wraps can bring some calm for some dogs. The way it works is similar to swaddling a baby. These garments provide gentle, constant pressure to prevent any over-excitement while reducing anxiety.
These sprays act as natural pheromones typically emitted by dogs to send a message to their brains of happiness, calm, and harmony. Resulting in your dog feeling comfortable and secure.
Another product I recommend to patients is Vetriscience. They make an herbal relaxant calledComposure for Dogs. They’re chewables made with Thiamine (Vitamin B1) and L-Theanine which promotes a soothing behavior in dogs that become anxious. It’s been proven to work within 30 minutes and can last up to 4 hours! If you give your dog the chewables on the Fourth of July – we can hope they will no longer be fearful of the fireworks – but I still recommend keeping your pooch in a safe and secure place. You can also use these gummies during thunderstorms, holidays, or vacations.
If these remedies don’t work, there are other options…
If the drug-free remedies aren’t calming or alleviating your dog’s anxiety, then I recommend speaking with your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to calm your dog and manage their anxiety. Please take note that these drugs will have side effects. It’s important to know that some of these medications work similarly to a muscle relaxant. Thus, it will reduce your dog’s outward display of anxiety, but still may not ease their mental anxiety.
So, if your dog begins panting, barking, or running around, they could be internally panicking. For this reason, I am pro-drug drug-free remedies for these kinds of situations. However, if a prescription of sedatives is the only way to keep your your dog from bolting or causing themselves any injuries, then it’s absolutely worth it. Again, I highly recommend that you consult your veterinarian before taking any steps with medication.
What about behavior modification or counterconditioning?
This may be a suitable option you’re dog is generally anxious. I don’t really think this is the best option for dogs who only experience high anxiety during events like the Fourth of July. Behavior modification and counterconditioning require a time commitment and consistent training using the stimuli that cause said anxiety (with fireworks this could be VERY tricky!). If anxiety is not a common feeling for your dog, then it likely will not be worth the time, money, and energy.
I hope this helps you and your dog to safely enjoy our Independence day!