The May long weekend is here and we at Mitchell Veterinary Services wish you and your pets a lovely, warm weekend!
Fireworks, as well as thunderstorms, may be a stressful time for your pets. Dogs have sensitive hearing and it can be overwhelming to hear threatening loud noises that can’t be traced to a specific location. Unfortunately for some animals, after each exposure to storms (or fireworks), their phobia becomes worse. Dogs with separation anxiety may be more likely to experience storm/firework anxiety.
An anxious dog may tremble, pant, pace, try to hide, vocalize or in extreme cases become destructive and hurt itself or its people in the process. Punishing a dog for this behavior may increase their stress level and is not recommended. On the other hand, soothing a dog with mild anxiety by using touch and praise is also not recommended, as you are rewarding undesirable behavior.
We recommend remaining calm and acting as if the storm is not a big deal. Depending on your dog, you can use this time to work on obedience training, play time or tranquility exercises. The goal is to distract your pet and reward it for desirable behaviour. Giving a pet a reward (a delicious treat, toy or praise) for good behavior is known as positive reinforcement. Recordings of a thunderstorm may allow your dog to gradually become desensitized to the noise and allow you to practice your distraction and relaxation techniques.
Individual animals respond differently to different tools. There are multiple treatment options that Mitchell Veterinary Services recommend for your pet depending on its severity of anxiety. Having a “safe place”, such as a crate for your dog, can give it a feeling of security. Ideally, this would be a quiet place with a limited view of windows, like a closet, that your pet can access at any time. Music or other white noise may help block out noises. There are products available that wrap the dog’s body, much like a child hiding under a blanket to muffle sensations. Supplements with natural calming ingredients may help reduce anxiety. Pheromones also may increase the dog’s confidence in a fearful situation. Anti-anxiety medication used in combination with behavior modification may be an effective tool as well. In some cases, a referral to a veterinary behaviourist may be recommended.
We wish you and your pets a fun and safe long weekend!