Dogs and fireworks do not make for a winning combination.
As most pet parents know, New Year’s Eve and July 4th, along with days featuring lightning and thunder, are some of the most stressful days for us when it comes to our canine companions.
No dog owner enjoys seeing their pup scared or nervous because of inexplicable, loud noises, and it can often be challenging to calm a dog down when they’re riled up by scary sounds.
A nervous or stressed dog can also lead to dangerous situations, however, such as your pup harming themselves as they try to find a safe space and hide or even running away. In fact, more pets run away and become lost on July 4th than on any other day of the year!
There’s nothing pet parents want more than for their dog to feel calm and safe whenever there are loud noises outside, so let’s explore the many options available in helping to calm down a dog who’s facing external stresses.
Dogs and Fireworks: A Recipe for Disaster
You may be one of the over 13 million viewers who watched Dora the Dog reunite with her family after a long seven months apart. If you haven’t watched the video, get a tissue box ready before clicking here.
To summarize Dora’s story, on Independence Day of 2012, Dora–like many other dogs–was spooked by the ongoing fireworks going off outside. In her panic, she jumped over the fence in her backyard and took off running.
If you’ve ever witnessed a dog become spooked by a loud noise, you know that there’s often nothing that is able to safely calm them down. The dog will just attempt to escape the situation, running for long distances.
Unfortunately, that’s what happened with Dora. Despite days and days of her family constantly searching for her, Dora was nowhere to be found. Even after months had passed, her owners still hadn’t given up hope, even though it seemed less and less likely that they would ever find Dora again.
Miraculously, seven months after Dora had jumped over that backyard fence, she was finally found and taken to a shelter! Thanks to the fact that Dora was microchipped, the shelter was able to contact her owners and reunite her with her family.
We’re so happy that Dora and her family were able to enjoy a happy ending, but for too many pets, that ‘happily ever after’ never comes around.
Statistics show that more dogs are lost on the Fourth of July than any other time of year, with some reports showing numbers of up to 30% more lost dogs on this specific holiday! Sadly, less than a quarter of those lost animals are ever returned to their owners due to a lack of proper identification (I.D. tags, microchips).
This demonstrates just how important it is to make sure your dog’s I.D. information is up-to-date, or that they have been microchipped. After all, animal shelters are only able to use the resources available to them as they try and reunite you and your pup.
Whether you’re facing July 4th, New Year’s Eve, or upcoming thunderstorms, it’s vital to understand everything you need to know about keeping your dog calm so that they can stay safe at home where they belong.
Dog Anxiety Medication
If you tell your veterinarian that your pup suffers from stress associated with loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medicine.
We want pet parents to be aware of these medications, what they aim to achieve, and their potential side effects. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to make the best decision possible for your pup.
Trazodone for Dogs
Trazodone is a prescription antidepressant drug that is often prescribed to humans who suffer from depression. In humans, it works to balance the levels of serotonin in the brain.
However, what you may not realize is that trazodone is also a medication for dogs. Trazodone is a generic medication that comes in the brand names Oleptro and Desyrel.
Typically, trazodone is prescribed to treat behavioral issues in dogs and cats.
Additionally, trazodone for dogs is used as an anti-anxiety medication for the treatment of separation anxiety, phobia anxieties, and other anxiety-related conditions including anxiety provoked by loud sounds such as firework noise.
Trazodone inhibits activity at certain serotonin receptor sites in the brain and changes the ways that the brain receives messages. In the cases of loud holidays, where the sound of fireworks may scare your dog, trazodone can be administered to achieve a stress-free evening.
Trazodone can be used daily or on an as-needed basis for a fearful dog.
Side Effects of Trazodone for Dogs
You should always refer to a medication’s website for a comprehensive list of possible side effects associated with the drug.
For trazodone, here are some of the common side effects:
Sileo for Dogs
Sileo is the first and only FDA-approved drug that is designed to treat noise aversion in dogs.
The medication Sileo aims to relieve the symptoms of stress associated with loud noise without sedating your pup.
Side Effects of Sileo for Dogs
Sileo’s main ingredient is something called dexmedetomidine hydrochloride. Dexmedetomidine hydrochloride is used for heavy sedation, something for pet parents to be aware of. Sileo advises dog owners to not administer the drug if their dog is sensitive to dexmedetomidine.
As always, for a comprehensive list of possible side effects associated with a drug, pet parents can easily visit any medication’s website for more information.
For Sileo, here are some of the common side effects:
Additionally, from Sileo’s website: “Do not use Sileo in dogs with severe cardiovascular disease, respiratory, liver or kidney diseases…”
Acepromazine for Dogs (Dog Sedative)
Acepromazine, commonly known as “Ace,” has an important role in the world of veterinary medicine.
It is an incredibly effective sedative that is used prior to anesthesia in dogs about to have surgery.
Essentially, its primary use is for tranquilization and can be expected to last 6-8 hours.
Side Effects of Acepromazine
Again, we encourage pet parents to always visit the websites of medications they’re considering in order to review a more comprehensive list of potential side effects associated with a drug.
For Acepromazine, here are some of the common side effects:
- Low blood pressure
- Discolored urine
Valium for Dogs (Diazepam)
Valium is often prescribed to humans for anxiety.
For animals, it’s usually used as a sedative and muscle relaxant. It can also be used as an anticonvulsant or as an anti-anxiety medication.
Side Effects of Valium for Dogs
We always encourage pet parents to do their due diligence by researching any medication their dog may be prescribed. By visiting the medication’s website, you can easily review a comprehensive list of any of the drug’s potential side effects.
For Valium, here are some of the common side effects:
- Impaired coordination
- Behavioral changes
Dramamine for Dogs
There are several medications on the market that help ease symptoms associated with stress.
One such drug is Dramamine, which people tend to take to ease motion sickness.
For many pet parents, car trips can be a nightmare because of the motion sickness dogs experience, causing them to become sick and ultimately throw up.
It may make sense to give your pup Dramamine to help combat their motion sickness. However, keep in mind that Dramamine is an anti-nausea drug, not an anti-anxiety one.
In other words, your dog may no longer be vomiting, but that doesn’t mean his stress and nervousness from being in the car has gone away.
Dog owners should ensure that they always know exactly what they are giving their pup and what the medicine intends to do.
CBD for Calming Dogs
CBD stands for “cannabidiol.”
It’s a natural occurring compound found in the cannabis plant.
When people first think about CBD, the initial image that comes to mind is probably recreational users chasing a “high.
However, CBD can be derived from two different varieties of the cannabis plant: the marijuana variety (notorious for the aforementioned “high”) and the hemp variety.
CBD for dogs should only ever be derived from the hemp variety. This is because hemp-derived CBD typically only contains less than 0.3% THC, the active ingredient that produces psychoactive effects, meaning your dog will not get high. (On the flip side, the marijuana variety of the cannabis plant can sometimes contain up to 25% THC or more!).
Pet parents have started turning to CBD for a number of reasons, and one of them is to promote relaxation in their dogs. It’s a perfect, holistic option for those who may need to calm down a dog or a hyper puppy or who want to help their dog cope with external stresses. The best part is that CBD has little to no side effects, with most dog owners reporting nothing more than slight lethargy when CBD is first introduced.
As an added bonus, in addition to helping dogs manage normal stress and maintain a normal, relaxed disposition, CBD will also interact with your dog’s internal endocannabinoid system, helping to support normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function.
These days, CBD for dogs comes in all forms, like CBD oil (also called a CBD tincture – you can check out the Honest Paws Calming Oil here), delicious chews, and flavorful bites! You can even find products like calming, CBD-infused peanut butter.
Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re always doing business with a reputable CBD company that sells full-spectrum CBD that’s been lab tested by a third party for quality and that also is certified with the National Animal Supplement Council.
What To Do If You Have A Scared Dog
The truth of the matter is that for two days a year (sometimes more if your neighbor has pyromaniac tendencies), firework displays are inevitable.
And in some parts of the U.S., thunderstorms are just a normal part of the summer.
So what are your options?
Since we can typically plan ahead when it comes to the holidays, pet owners should consider if their home makes for a relatively quiet and safe place for their animal friends.
If you live next door to a location that puts on a full-on firework show, for instance, you might perhaps consider spending the evening at a friend’s house further away from the chaos.
Remember, dogs are very hyper aware and are also sensitive creatures. Because fireworks are close to the ground (in comparison to thunderstorms) and are accompanied by burning smells, the nonstop explosions and crashing sounds can be very confusing and stressful for your pup. It’s always best to make him feel as comfortable and protected as possible.
Part of being prepared is understanding the symptoms of nervousness or panic in dogs. These symptoms include:
- Erratic movement
- Seeking comfort
- Being easily spooked
When your dog displays these signs, he’s communicating that he doesn’t feel safe.
Planning ahead is one of the easiest ways you can remove external stresses from your dog’s environment and create a calming space for him.
Think about a time that you felt afraid of something unknown. Chances are, the last thing that you wanted was to experience it alone.
If your pup is anxious around loud bangs, it is so important to make sure that they aren’t experiencing it by themselves.
If there’s no way for you to be home with your pup, consider taking him to a friend’s house or somewhere that is familiar where they feel safe.
Your dog senses your energy and looks to you as their pack leader for cues.
If you’re anxious or upset by environmental stresses, it will only cause more anxiety for your dog. As such, it’s best to always stay as calm as possible during fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises in order to comfort and soothe your canine companion.
Additionally, experts recommend taking your dog on a long walk before fireworks begin. Getting rid of excess energy is an effective way to ensure that your pup is already in a calmer place mentally.
Many pet owners have seen positive results from using tactics such as desensitization.
For several weeks leading up to the “big day,” pet parents will begin playing youtube tracks of fireworks.
When you begin this process, you want to start off quietly and not make a big deal out of the fireworks. You can play the track a couple of times a day and gradually increase the volume of the videos.
This helps program your dog in a way to become used to the sound of fireworks.
Of course, actual fireworks are naturally going to be louder once those specific holidays come around, but it’s worth a shot at helping your dog become more familiar with certain sounds in hopes that they eventually cause him less stress.
Dogs and Fireworks: A Final Thought
When dogs are afraid, they can act in erratic ways that have the potential to cause them harm or make them nervous enough to run away from home.
It’s upsetting that two holidays that should be celebrated in a cheerful way can cause our fur babies so much anxiety.
That’s why it’s imperative that pet parents have an action plan in place for holidays like the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve–two days when fireworks are inevitable.
By being prepared, being present, and staying calm for your pup, we are confident that you and your four-legged friend will both have a Happy Fourth of July and a stress-free New Year’s Eve this year!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are common dog anxiety medications?
Common dog anxiety medications often prescribed by veterinarians include Trazodone, Sileo, Acepromazine, and Valium. Pet parents should always consult the official website of any drug prescribed to their dog for the most updated information and list of reported side effects.
What is Trazodone for dogs?
Trazodone is used as an anti-anxiety medication in dogs for the treatment of separation anxiety, phobia anxieties, and other anxiety-related conditions including anxiety provoked by loud sounds such as fireworks. It works by inhibiting activity at certain serotonin receptor sites in the brain.
What is Sileo for dogs?
Sileo is the first and only FDA-approved drug that is designed to treat noise aversion in dogs. Its main ingredient is dexmedetomidine hydrochloride, which is used for heavy sedation, something pet parents should be aware of.
Can you use Dramamine for dogs?
Dramamine can help ease the symptoms associated with stress in dogs. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Dramamine is an anti-nausea drug, not an anti-anxiety one. Your dog may no longer be nauseous, but that doesn’t mean their stress or nervousness has gone away.
How do you calm down a scared dog?
Your dog senses your energy and looks to you as their pack leader for cues. If you’re anxious or upset by environmental stresses, it will only cause more anxiety for your dog. As such, it’s best to always stay as calm as possible during fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises. It may also help to work toward desensitizing your dog to the noises they normally fear.