Food, friends and fireworks are must-haves for many Fourth of July celebrations, but as much as we love these festivities, all that noise can be extremely scary for our dogs. Veterinarian Dr. Gary Rickter explains that many dogs get anxiety around fireworks and they may perceive these sounds as signs of danger.
“Just like us, dogs also experience a fight or flight response,” he explains. “Because there isn’t anything they can fight against with fireworks, they result in hiding or other nervous behaviors, like trembling, clinging to their owner, lip-licking and frequent yawning.”
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to protect and comfort your furry friend during the loud holiday celebrations. Veterinarians share tips for keeping your dog calm as the fireworks go off.
- Set up a distraction - Turn on some white noise or the TV in the background, suggests vet Dr. Grant Little. He points out that basements help muffle sound, so that may be a good place for your dog on July 4th. Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Chimes also recommends long-lasting chew toys or lick mats as distractions.
- Buy a weighted item for your dog - If your dog is comforted by a weighted blanket or jacket, vet Dr. Antje Joslin suggests using those to ease their anxiety. She recommends a Thundershirt, which is like the dog equivalent of a weighted blanket or a swaddle for babies.
- Try exposure therapy - Rickter says dogs can get used to and feel more comfortable with the loud noises from fireworks over time. If you play fireworks noises at home, starting at a low volume and slowly making it louder, it could help your pet become desensitized to the sound as they realize nothing is wrong. The vet notes that this takes some time, so you can’t just start the morning of the Fourth.
- Consider a pharmaceutical option - If nothing else works, you can talk to your vet about medication. They make doggie versions of anxiety meds like Xanax, Paxil and Valium and your vet will be able to help you find the right one.