July is the season for fireworks, barbecues, swimming pools, and much more. However, it’s definitely not your dog's favorite holiday. The loud explosive sounds from fireworks can cause stress and anxiety for your dog. A lot of dogs get so scared that they escape and run away from home.
Fortunately, there are strategies that you can take to reduce the anxiety in your canine companion during the Fourth of July.
Desensitize Your Dog
You can desensitize your dog by playing with him or her during the fireworks. This allows your dog to get accustomed to the sound and realize that it won’t hurt them. You can also give some treats to associate fireworks with something positive.
There are dog treats that contain CBD ingredients inside. These ingredients release certain chemicals from your dog's brain to help them relax. This is very useful in a stressful situation because it alleviates your dog’s anxiety. Plus, they are very delicious and effective without the side effects that your dog will get from standard prescription medications.
It’s essential to have a safe place for your dog to hide during the explosions. You can put them in your house or provide them with a crate. Make sure to add a comfortable blanket and favorite toy in the crate, so it reduces their anxiety and stress during the fireworks.
Give your dog some tasty toys so they can munch on it for hours. Some people prefer to use a Kong and add a treat in there. When it comes to Kong, it will take your dog a while to get the treat. It keeps their mind busy and stimulated during the firework show. These toys serve as a distraction strategy so they won’t concentrate on the noise from the fireworks.
Update Dog Collars and Tags
Sometimes, a dog might get so fearful of the fireworks at the point of bolting out of the house. He or she might not remember how to get back due to extreme fear. This is why it’s imperative to update your dog's collar and tag before the Fourth of July. If your dog ends up at the animal shelter, they can call in to let you know where your dog is. Sometimes if their collar is too loose, it can come off. The best thing to do is to have a GPS tracker on him/her or microchip your dog.
Exercise Your Pet
You can take your dog out for a run or a long walk to tire him or her out. If a dog is too tired, they are more likely to sleep through the fireworks. Make sure to give them plenty of water after the walk, so they don’t get dehydrated.
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A thundershirt is a high-quality vest that you wrap around your dog. The purpose of this vest is to keep them calm with the use of gentle pressure. A lot of people have raved that thundershirt has done a phenomenal job of alleviating stress and anxiety for their dogs during the firework show.
Leave the TV or Radio On
You can turn the radio or TV on during the firework explosions to drown out the sound. Plus, the TV or radio can distract your pet. In fact, some dogs love classical music while others prefer TV shows or talk radio.
Shut the Curtains
If people are using fireworks in your neighborhood, then close the windows and shut the curtains to reduce the sound. If there is any area in your home or room that is soundproof, then it’s a good idea to put your dog in there. If you have a basement, you can definitely create a bed with warm blankets for your dog to sleep.
Anti Anxiety Medications
For some dogs, their anxiety level is so overwhelming to the point where prescription medication will be the best way to go. It’s best to talk to your veterinarian before deciding if this is the best option. The anti-anxiety drug also alters the chemical signals in the brain to release more serotonin or GABA for the relaxation effect. Because of its side effects, it’s vital to keep an eye on your dog while he or she is on the medication.
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Why are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?
Sometimes you might be wondering why your dog is afraid of fireworks, and we are here to give you all the reasons why.
First of all, fireworks are loud, and dogs have an extremely acute sense of hearing, meaning they hear the sound twice as much as we do. A loud boom or crackle might seem minute to us, but it may sound like the end of the world to them.
You may find the Fourth of July holiday to be the time for fireworks and fun, but your dog will not. Fireworks come without warning and at different intervals, so the flashing lights and loud sounds may startle your dog.
The unpredictable aspect of the noise can be perceived as a threat. This can trigger your dog's fight and flight response, explaining why so many dogs run away on this holiday. This is a classic case that can be very dangerous if left unmanaged.
Fireworks can make your dog feel trapped. Plus, the noise can trigger their fight response, so they will do whatever they can to run away. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to go, so that further increases their anxiety.
What Not to do During the Fireworks
It’s important not to force your dog to stay during the fireworks. When this happens, your dog may become very fearful and aggressive towards those around them. After all, the noise stimulates the fight and flight response, which can elevate the aggression levels in the dog. This can be very dangerous if you have young children around.
Signs and Symptoms That Your Dog is Having Anxiety
The symptoms of severe anxiety are urinating/defecating in the house, aggression, panting, drooling, depression, destructive behavior, pacing, barking, compulsive behaviors, and restlessness.
Types of Anxiety
When it comes to anxiety, there are various types that we should pay attention to:
Separation anxiety often occurs when they are left alone or without a primary caregiver. Usually, the dog is calm and relaxed when they’re around their owners or people. When a dog has separation anxiety, they can become very destructive and disruptive like whining, barking, excessive howling, defecation, or destroying the furniture. It is very common for this to happen because dogs are social animals and don’t like to be left alone.
Illness-induced anxiety is often caused by an underlying medical disorder such as hypothyroidism, thyrotoxicosis, diabetes, or hearing/vision loss. If your dog experiences sudden behavior changes, definitely talk to the veterinarian to rule out other causes before indicating that it’s illness-induced anxiety.
Generalizing anxiety is very difficult to diagnose or pinpoint because there’s no underlying cause to it. It might be from a primary event from the past, but it is often gone unnoticed or undiagnosed. With this component of anxiety, it could just be the breed or that the dog is genetically prone to stress and anxiety during the slightest stimulation. The behavior is often very subtle, but abnormal so a lot of dog owners will shrug it off. However, as time goes by, the symptoms get worse, which will require a trip to the vet.
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Can Dogs Die From Anxiety?
Animal research was done at Penn State University to check if anxiety can kill dogs. The research focuses on a retrospective approach. Owners who have dogs that have passed away have completed an online survey with a wide range of topics, from behavior to health history. Through the research, they found out that dogs living with severe anxiety on a constant basis tend to have shorter lifespans and more medical conditions compared to dogs that live in a healthy household with peace and serenity. Dogs living in low-stress households tend to be healthier and have a longer lifespan.
Dog Breeds That are Prone to Anxiety
The types of dog breeds that are prone to anxiety include German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Shorthair Pointers, King Charles Spaniels, Greyhounds, and Toy Dogs.
When it comes to the Fourth of July, it’s time to find ways to relax your dog. The fireworks can drive him or her up the walls. Luckily, we have all the tips and tricks that you can use to keep your dog cool, calm, and collected. That way, both of you guys can enjoy the hot summer season with some fireworks and barbecue.
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