When you think of summer, you might think of pool parties, backyard barbecues, Fourth of July celebrations, or road trips. And, while there isn’t much to dislike about summer, the loud noises that can accompany some of our favorite summertime activities, like fireworks, can be terrifying for our pets.
Noise anxiety is not uncommon in dogs and cats. And, the anxiety can be so severe that some pets experience a “fight or flight” reaction, doing anything to try to escape the sounds, including being aggressive or running away. In fact, more pets go missing and end up in shelters around the Fourth of July than any other time of the year.
But how do you know if your pet is scared of loud noises, like fireworks or thunderstorms?
The signs of anxiety in pets
If your pet is feeling scared, stressed, or anxious, he might:
- Look away
- Lick his lips
- Groom himself
- Put his ears back
- Bark excessively
- Become aggressive
- Try to escape or run away
Preventing and treating anxiety in pets
Some pet owners feel helpless when it comes to their pet’s anxiety, but there are ways to manage and alleviate your pet’s fear. Help prevent noise anxiety before it starts by:
- Providing a safe place — Some pets prefer a cozy spot they can call their own, like a crate, closet, or interior room. If there are fireworks or other loud noises happening outside, get your pet into his safe place and give him some treats and favorite toys. Be sure to close all doors, windows, and window treatments.
- Distracting — Inside the safe place, you can counteract the exterior noise by turning on the TV or radio for your pet (but not too loud). White noise, like classical music, will help to dull the scary sounds of fireworks or thunderstorms.
- Desensitizing — If you know your pet is afraid of a particular noise, you can help him to overcome those fears by slowly introducing the noise to him during calm times. For example, you can play an audio recording of fireworks, beginning at a low volume, a few weeks before the Fourth of July. While the audio recording is playing, give your pet ample treats and affection. Over the next several weeks, slowly increase the volume (while still giving treats and love) until it reaches a similar level to what your pet will experience on the Fourth of July. With this method, some pets become less fearful of the sounds and begin to associate them with treats and affection.
- Providing a secure feeling — If you’ve ever swaddled a newborn baby, you know how secure that tight wrap can make the baby feel. Some pets also like the feeling of a tight, secure wrap, like a ThunderShirt.
- Using pheromones — Mother dogs and cats communicate with their puppies and kittens using pheromones, which are natural and comforting messages released in the air. Undetectable by humans, pheromones help the puppies and kittens to feel comforted, reassured, and relaxed during situations that could cause fear, anxiety, or stress. There are products available—Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats—that duplicate these pheromones and help to naturally ease anxiety. These pheromones are available as collars, sprays, and diffusers.
- Seeking help — If your pet’s anxiety is severe and doesn’t improve after trying the above methods, contact our office at 318-797-5522. Some pets benefit from medications that can alleviate anxiety.
And remember, since more pets go missing around the Fourth of July than any other time of year, it’s important to be sure that your pet is microchipped. Register the microchip and keep your contact information up to date. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association:
- About 22 percent of lost dogs that enter animal shelters are reunited with their families, but the rate of return for microchipped dogs is more than 52 percent (a 238 percent increase!).
- Less than 2 percent of lost cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their families, but the rate of return for microchipped cats is more than 38 percent (a 2,000 percent increase!).
Need help managing your pet’s anxiety and keeping him safe and secure during fireworks or thunderstorms? Call us at 318-797-5522.