With Canada’s 150th Birthday right around the corner, you can guarantee that the fireworks displays are going to be epic! While these wonderous displays of light can create lasting memories for generations of Canadians, fireworks are often a source of intense anxiety and terror for our four-legged friends. Animal shelters around the country routinely find themselves inundated with lost pets after Canada Day and vet clinics are often busy treating injuries caused by panicked pets trying to escape the noise.
Not surprisingly, fireworks-phobia is fairly common in dogs, and as soon as the first crackling boom is felt, you may notice that your dog suddenly starts to pant, pace, hide in a closet, or wedge themselves under the bed. In some cases, the anxiety caused by fireworks can be so bad that a dog may claw through drywall or doors, chew up the carpet, or even break through windows in an attempt to get away. While cats can also experience fireworks anxiety, they typically show their nervousness by trembling or hiding in a safe, quiet place, rather than becoming destructive, until the noise stops.
To help your dog have a lower-stress Canada Day, we’ve put together these seven tips to help keep him calm around fireworks.
1. Keep Dogs Inside During Fireworks Displays
The safest place for your pets during a fireworks display, including your free roaming cats, is indoors! You’ll want to close your blinds and draw your curtains to minimize sensory overload and block off any doggie doors that could provide an easy escape route. Never leave dogs tied outside during fireworks displays!
2. Just Chill, Man
Animals are very in tune with their owner’s feelings and can pick up on even the most subtle signs of stress. If you’re overly worried about how your dog might react to fireworks, he’ll pick up on those feelings, and it could cause him to feel even more stressed! Be there to calm and reassure your pet, but try not to make your pet’s stress worse by over-reacting to his fear.
3. Create a “Safe Space”
Create a space for your dog away from the blast of the fireworks to give him a greater sense of comfort during the fireworks display. It could be a pillow in a dimmed basement, his crate, or a chair with a blanket put over the top. Try adding an article or two of clothes that have your scent on him to provide a little extra reassurance.
4. Play Music to Soothe Frayed Nerves
Research published in The Journal of Veterinary Behavior shows that certain classical music pieces can reduce anxiety in dogs. There are several music collections and playlists on the market specifically designed for pets, but our favourite is “Through A Dog’s Ear,” which was specifically developed and scientifically tested to lower the heart rate of anxious dogs. If classical music isn’t readily available, you can also try creating white noise with a fan to drown out some of the noise.
5. Offer Distractions
Some pets may be too terrified for a round of tug-of-war, but for some hounds, a game or his favourite toy could be just the thing to take his mind off the noise outside. Grab his favourite toy and play a quick game of fetch in the basement until the display is over.
There are several great over-the-counter products available to help combat your pup’s anxiety. Adaptil has long been the “go-to” for pet parents dealing with anxiety is formulated to mimic a hormone that lactating dogs naturally produce. It’s available in both a spray and a diffuser depending on the type of anxiety you’re dealing with and can work in as little as 20 minutes. Slightly newer to the market is a nutritional supplement called Zylkene that is derived from milk protein that has calming properties. This product takes some time to build up in the system to work, but our clients have reported a noticeable reduction of anxiety symptoms in pets. Another non-medical option to try is a ThunderShirt, which applies a reduces gentle, constant pressure on the pet to create a hugging effect and over 80% of dogs and cats have a significant reduction in anxiety and fear after using it.
7. Medicate your Mutt if Needed
If you notice that your pet’s reactions to thunderstorms are so severe that he has the potential to harm himself or others, it’s worth talking to your vet about your options. There are a number of prescription medications available that are proven to be safe and effective that may help your furry friend feel more comfortable around loud noises.
Finally, make sure that before you head out to a Canada 150 Celebration or BBQ that your pet’s ID tags and microchip information is up-to-date with your current contact information! That way if Fido or Fluffy tries to escape from the startling noises, you’ll have a much better chance of reuniting with your loved one quickly!