How to help your dog deal with firework anxiety

NORFOLK, Va. – For many, watching fireworks are a fun Independence Day tradition.

However, fireworks and thunderstorms can trigger anxiety in dogs. According to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, a third of all dogs will suffer from noise anxiety.

“To some degree, their ears are more sensitive. They pick up a wider range of sounds than we do,” said veterinarian Mark D. Freeman at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. “Sudden very loud sounds can cause dogs to be very frightened, and with the continuation of noise, it’s sort of a ramping up effect. The more noise they are exposed to, the more reactive they become.”

Some dogs will look for a place place where they feel more safe and secure.

“When they are in a situation where they are being bombarded with noises that are causing a tremendous amount of stress for them, they are looking for any source of security, and that includes a “safe” hiding place,” said Freeman.

Freeman says veterinarians see an increase in the number of injuries to dogs near the fourth of July, which usually related to noise anxiety from fireworks.

“Dogs have jumped through glass windows and off decks and balconies, chewed through doors and walls, and many get hit by cars when they panic and run away from the noise,” he said.

Here are a few tips on dealing with noise anxiety from BluePearl:

  • Know the signs. Common signs of panic in dogs include panting, pacing, drooling and barking. Your dog may also try to hide or run from the booming noise.
  • Try medications. If you know your dog panics when he or she hears fireworks, talk to your vet about Sileo, an anti-anxiety medication specifically known for treating noise aversion in dogs. When choosing an anti-anxiety medication for your dog, it is important to have a discussion with your veterinarian and select a reputable, established brand.
  • Create a quiet space. Before the fireworks begin, move your dog to the quietest safe area of your home. Play some gentle music or use a white noise machine to help drown out some of the scary sounds. Fill the quiet room with soft blankets, fun toys and a few treats.
  • Provide an edible distraction. Use a fillable or Kong-style toy to create a scrumptious challenge for your dog to snack on during the evening fireworks. Place the toy in the freezer a few hours before the fireworks, then give it to him when the noises begin.
  • Comfort and love your dog.  Receiving love and comfort from trusted humans can help tremendously when your dog experiences noise anxiety. Support your dog by speaking to him in a soothing voice and offering snuggles.
  • Look into anti-anxiety pet products. Because fireworks anxiety is so common in dogs, you can now find many products designed to help them stay calm. Try out dog ear muffs or a snug anti-anxiety shirt. You can also look for puzzle toys designed to keep their minds occupied and distract them from fear.