Being a dog owner isn't always rainbows and butterflies! In fact, sometimes it's anxiety attacks and thunderstorms...literally. Furthermore, as much as most of us wish more than anything that we could talk to our pets and have them understand us, it just isn't the case. Therefore, when your pup wakes up to scary, loud noises at two in the morning, it's often hard to calm Fido down. Rightfully so, fireworks can come out of nowhere for an unsuspecting dog who doesn't quite understand the concept of the Fourth of July or celebrating New Years.
While the noise can cause anxiety, it can also cause incredibly dangerous situations such as your fur baby getting spooked, running away, or hurting themselves. Your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to ease your pup's fear, but is it worth it? While easing your anxious pup, could these medications additionally cause adverse reactions that are perhaps worse than the stress of fireworks? What are your other options? In this article, we hope to answer these questions and any other concerns you may have regarding dogs and fireworks.
Dogs and Fireworks: A Recipe for Disaster
You may be one of the over 10 million viewers who watched Dora the Dog reunite with her fur daddy after a long seven months apart. If you haven't watched the video, get the tissue box ready before clicking here.
We'll give you a rundown on what happened. On Independence Day of 2012, Dora the Dog was spooked by fireworks. She hopped 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 until they can't run anymore. Unfortunately, that's what happened with Dora. Despite days on days of constantly searching, Dora was nowhere to be found. Even after months had passed, her owners still hadn't given up hope.
Miraculously, seven months after Dora the Dog had jumped the backyard fence, she was 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. A happy ending that doesn't happen often once pets go missing. Sadly, two of the most prevalent times a year that dogs become spooked and run away from their homes are on the Fourth of July and New Years Eve. With July Fourth right around the corner, it's imperative for dog owners to be aware of the dangers and do everything that can to prevent a potentially terrible situation.
** Also, this is another great lesson in microchipping. Animal shelters are only able to use the resources available to bring Fido home. Ensuring that your pup is chipped is paramount for a happy reunion.
Dog Anxiety Medication
If you tell your veterinarian that your pup suffers from stress associated with loud noise, i.e. fireworks, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medicine. We want pet owners to be aware of these medications, what they aim to achieve, as well as their potential side effects. The more you know the better equipped you'll be to make the best decision possible for your anxious dogs.
Trazodone for Dogs
You may have heard of the drug trazodone. It's 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 Leptro and Desyrel. Typically, trazodone is prescribed to treat behavioral issues in dogs and cats. In most cases of euthanization, the animal is put down to do behavioral issues such as aggression. Trazodone greatly helps in these situations.
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 (i.e. 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
So, you may be thinking that trazodone sounds like a pretty safe bet for your anxious pet. However, we have so not so great news. Check out this list of potential side effects of the anti-anxiety medicine.
You'll quickly see that several of the adverse reactions closely resemble an anxiety attack, i.e. shaking, panting, hyperactivity, etc. It makes a pet owner wonder what the point is. Giving your pup harsh medication only for it to potentially create more of what you're trying to eliminate doesn't make much sense.
Furthermore, trazodone can have negative reactions with other medications including anti-fungal medications, inhibitors, diazepam, and buspirone.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we would avoid anti-anxiety drugs like trazodone. (Don't worry, we'll give you our recommendations shortly).
Sileo for Dogs
Sileo is the first and only FDA-approved drug that is designed to treat noise aversion in dogs. That's right. So many dogs experience anxiety and fear with loud noises that scientists created a medication specifically for the condition. The medication Sileo aims to relieve the symptoms of stress associated with loud noise without sedating your pup. By easing the stress of the dog they hope to subsequently ease the stress of the pet owner.
Side Effects of Sileo for Dogs
You might be thinking, great! No stress for Fido, no stress for me, sign us up! Not so fast.
While Sileo is advertised as calming without sedating, we can't overlook its main ingredient: Dexmedetomidine hydrochloride. Dexmedetomidine hydrochloride is used for heavy sedation. Other scary side effects include abnormally low blood pressure, dangerously slow heart action, and sinoatrial arrest. When a sinoatrial arrest occurs, it essentially stops the body from sending electrical impulses that are responsible for myocardial tissue to contract. Essentially, your pup's heart stops beating for seconds at a time.
But wait, there's more (unfortunately). A sinoatrial arrest can also lead to cardiac arrest which can easily lead to death.
Sileo sounds more like a cause for panic, not a solution for it.
Acepromazine for Dogs (Dog Sedative)
The sad fact of the matter is at the end of the day, there is an exorbitant amount of dogs with a noise phobia associated with fireworks. What's worse is that so many of these dogs are being prescribed a drug called Acepromazine, more commonly known as "Ace."
Acepromazine certainly 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. However, in terms of stand-alone anxiety such as a firework display or thunderstorm, "Ace" can be very dangerous.
Consider this, if your pup has anxiety associated with loud noises, they are suffering quite a bit and more times than not, let you know. A dog that has been given Acepromazine is still suffering through the sounds of fireworks, but they are unable to show their owner leading to even more suffering. In other words, they are still feeling an incredible amount of fear, but cannot move or show their owner how scared they are. It's a heart-breaking thought, to say the least.
Side Effects of The Dog Tranquilizer "Ace"
Furthermore, the following side effects are also reported when dogs are given the tranquilizer, "Ace."
- Hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure)
- Opposite effects, i.e. instead of the dog becoming sedated, instead becomes aggressive and overly excited
- Abnormally low body temperature
- Pink-colored urine
We hope this information speaks for itself but just in case, please PLEASE stay far away from Acepromazine as a means to eliminate anxiety. It can have a scary and opposite effect than you would ever want for your pup.
Valium for Dogs
Another drug that you may have heard of is Valium. Valium is often prescribed to humans for anxiety. Scientists have formulated a dosage of valium that your vet may prescribe to ease the associated stress and anxiety of your pup's fear of fireworks.
All of the research that we found on valium continues to state that it is "usually" safe. That's a troublesome word for us to wrap our heads around. Usually safe... unless it's not.
Side Effects of Valium for Dogs
Additionally, there are quite a few scary side effects of valium for dogs that pet owners should be aware of. These side effects include:
- Impaired coordination
- Increased appetite
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioral changes
Furthermore, a valium overdose can be incredibly serious and result in:
- Extreme sedation
- Delayed reflexes
(Don't worry-- we promise we're getting to the all natural, safe, and effective alternatives)
Dramamine for Dogs
Before we get into specifics on how best to handle a scared dog, we want to make sure that pet owners realize a few things.
There are several medications on the market that help ease symptoms associated with stress. For instance, Dramamine can help with motion sickness in the sense that car trips cause many dogs to be ill and throw up. Dramamine is an anti-nausea. Dramamine is not an anti-anxiety medicine. Therefore, your beloved pup may not be vomiting, but it still experiencing high levels of stress. Dog owners should ensure that they always know exactly what they are giving their pup and what the medicine intends to do.
What To Do If You Have A Scared Dog
The truth of the matter is two days a year (sometimes more if your neighbor has pyromaniac tendencies), firework displays are inevitable. So what are your options?
Luckily, we are able to plan ahead seeing that we know that fireworks are typically set off on the same two holidays each year: the Fourth of July and New Years Eve.
Since we can plan ahead, pet owners should consider if their home is a relatively quiet, safe place. Of course, nowhere is going to be completely quiet, but if you live next door to a place where they do a full on firework show, perhaps consider spending the evening at a friend's house further away from the chaos.
Pet owners should also acknowledge the differences between thunderstorms and fireworks. While thunderstorms are loud, fireworks are closer to the ground, come with sudden booms after the original bang, and are also accompanied by burning smells. Dogs are very hyper aware and sensitive creatures. If at all possible, do your best to make your pup feel safe and as far away from the banging, crashing confusion as possible.
Furthermore, part of being prepared is understanding the symptoms of panic in dogs. These symptoms include:
- Erratic movement
- Seeking comfort
- Easily spooked
Think about a time that you felt afraid of something unknown. Chances are, the last thing that you wanted us to experience it alone. If your pup is anxious around loud bangs (or even if they aren't), it is so important to make sure that they aren't experiencing it alone. If there's no way for you to be home with your pup, consider taking Fido to a friends house or somewhere that is familiar and where they feel safe.
Your dog senses your energy. Therefore, it is important for you to stay calm. Dogs look to their pack leader (you) for cues. If you are acting wild, it will, in turn, cause even more anxiety for your pup. It's best to stay calm and soothe your pup.
Additionally, experts recommend taking Fido on a long walk before the fireworks begin. Getting rid of excess energy is an effective way to make sure 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. Start of quietly and don't 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 reprogram your pup's mind to not totally fear the unknown, since it will no longer be unknown. Of course, on the day, fireworks are louder than any surround sound system that we've been able to find (also, let's not have your neighbors completely despise you by the end of this process).
How to Calm Down a Dog Naturally
Additionally, there are ways to naturally calm an anxious dog. These ways are not only safe, but effective. The icing on the anti-anxiety cake is that there are virtually no associated side effects.
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Dogs and Fireworks: The Bottom Line
Your animals are your family members. Trust us, we understand and feel the same way about our own furry companions. That's why when there's a language barrier between a pet owner and Fido, it can be frustrating and upsetting. You want them to understand that they are safe. You want them to understand that everything is going to be okay and the loud, scary noises will pass soon. However, it's just not possible to get certain messages across sometimes. That's where we, as pet parents, have to do everything in our power to help our pups feel protected. By being prepared, being present, staying calm, and implementing natural, effective herbs, we are confident that you will see a positive change this July 4th.
We want to remind our readers that when dogs are afraid, they can act in erratic ways that have the potential to cause them a lot of harm. It is imperative that pet parents keep a close, loving eye on their dogs (always, but) when the firework displays are in full effect. It's hard to predict what may spook a dog and how they will react. Even a dog that has shown little or no signs of being afraid of a typical thunderstorm can be provoked by the close proximity or smells associated with fireworks.
We know that you want what is best for your pup. It's upsetting that two holidays that should be celebrated in a cheerful way can cause our fur children so much anxiety. However, acknowledging this is the case and acting to lessen the anxiety as much as possible will ensure that you both have a Happy Fourth of July and a stressless New Years Eve. We wish you all the luck and all the good (anxiety-free) vibes this firework season!