Get ready… firework and thunderstorm season is upon us! For many pet owners, this can be a trying time. The loud booms of fireworks and thunder leave many pets distraught. So what’s a pet owner to do?
How do I know if my pet has storm or firework anxiety?
Thunderstorm and firework anxiety is a type of noise phobia. Pets with noise phobias have an irrational fear of certain types of noises, often loud unpredictable sounds like thunder and fireworks. Animals can manifest this fear in many ways, but the most common behaviors that signal firework or thunderstorm anxiety in cats and dogs are pacing, trembling, hiding, panting, destructive behavior, drooling, dilated pupils, racing heart rate and sometimes urinary or fecal accidents.
What can you do to help?
Watching your pet suffer during storms and fireworks can be agonizing, but luckily there are things you can do to help. Treatment usually involves behavioral therapy, but in some cases pharmaceutical intervention is necessary.
First things first, make sure your pet has up to date ID tags and is microchipped.
During times of intense fear, some pets will escape from their owners or homes in an attempt to hide and find safety. If your pet has appropriate identification, it will make it that much easier to find him/her if you are separated. If your pet is microchipped, please ensure that your contact information is up to date. If your pet is not microchipped, please contact us to discuss microchipping.
Provide a safe and comfortable place for your pet to wait out the storm or firework event. For some pets this may be their crate or bed.
Most pets prefer a room with few windows, comfortable bedding and toys or treats. You may consider trying to muffle the frightening noise with calming music or turning up the volume on the television.
Counter Conditioning, Distraction and Desensitization
Use counter conditioning techniques. Counter conditioning is a technique that pairs a negative trigger with a positive reward. During thunderstorms or fireworks, offer your pet treats and praise to encourage them to view the event in a more positive light.
You can use distraction techniques like running through training commands that your pet knows and offer treat rewards after every successfully completed behavior. Playing a game or introducing fun toys or a treat filled toy can also help distract them and reduce anxiety.
Desensitization can also help. Playing thunderstorm/firework sounds on an electronic device on fair weather days can allow your pet to get used to the loud noise. Over time they can become desensitized to a noise that used to induce anxiety.
If all of the above do not seem to help with your pet’s thunderstorm/firework anxiety, your pet may require additional intervention. Natural remedies like nutraceuticals, pheromone diffusers and Thundershirts may help with milder cases of noise phobias. More severe cases may require prescription anxiolytics. Please call us to set up an appointment to discuss these options in more detail.
It is our pleasure to serve you and your pets. Please do not hesitate to call our offices (708-383-3606) if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your veterinary healthcare team.