Does you pet experience fear, anxiety or stress during thunderstorms or fireworks?
If the answer is yes, your furry friend is not alone. Many dogs and cats exhibit some form of fear in noisy or unusual conditions. In fact, many pets go missing during fireworks shows and thunderstorms every year.
The good news is, your pet does not have to suffer! There are things you can do to help your pet relax, and in some cases, overcome their fear all together.
Dogs can express their anxiety or fear by hiding, panting, pacing, barking, house-soiling and even destroying your property.
Cats tend to hide when they are fearful or anxious but they can exhibit the same signs as dogs in extreme situations.
What can I do if my pet experiences fear, anxiety or stress during these situations?
Dog specific pheromones (such as Adaptyl) are a synthetic version of the pheromone released by a female dog after she has had puppies. This pheromone calms and reassures the puppies. Adaptyl can be used on an as needed basis in a spray form or as a plug-in or a collar that continually last for a month.
Cat specific pheromones (such as Feliway) are a synthetic version of the pheromone your cat produces when he rubs his cheek on things. This pheromone tells your cat he is in a safe place.
We can help you decide if the sprays, plug-ins or collar is right for your specific situation. Make sure you use the product well before the event or storm when possible. Once your pet becomes anxious, it may be harder for the pheromones to calm him completely.
Counter conditioning: Playing recordings of the trigger everyday to help get your dog or cat used to the sound. Play at a low level that does not trigger fear and gradually increasing the sound over time. Give him treats, attention and praise during this time to teach him these sounds are not a reason to be scared.
Calming music: Studies have shown playing calming music for pets can help them relax in stressful situations. Doing this provides a “white noise” type of effect and can help drown out the anxiety trigger. “Through a Cats Ear” and “Through a Dogs Ear” has been studied and shown to reduce anxiety in the animals they were created for.
Calming garments: These “shirts” provide gentle pressure around your pet which gives them a sense of security.
Reassurance from you: Some pets find comfort from sitting in their owners lap being petted and calmly reassured. For a pet with very mild anxiety, it may be all they need. If your pet still seems anxious, try distracting him by playing with his favorite toy or having him go through his “tricks” for a favorite treat.
Safe confinement: Many pets also find comfort in a small space with a soft, warm blanket and their favorite toy. A comfortable crate or carrier can be a great tool in a situation like this. Covering the crate to keep your pet from seeing the lightening, fireworks or trigger can be a big help as well.
Anti-anxiety medications: We generally will use these medications if the pet has moderate or severe anxiety and needs more than one approach to cope. These medications vary depending on the pet and the severity of the fear. Dr. Ward can discuss the specific needs and triggers of your pet and tell you if an anti-anxiety medicine is right for him.
REMEMBER: If your pet does tend to escape during stressful events, please make sure he is always wearing a collar (breakaway for cats) with current tags and a microchip. These two things will give your pet the best chance of being reunited with you…and that will decrease YOUR anxiety and stress!
Dr. Ward and the Fear Free Certified team at Johnston Animal Hospital want your pet to be safe, especially if they become fearful during thunderstorms, fireworks or any other trigger that causes stress. Please call us at 919-934-3511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information or if your pet needs help to ease his fear. Be safe and most of all HAVE FUN!