Summer Anxiety: Thunderstorms and Fireworks

Over the next few days we may have multiple thunderstorms pass through our area. Although some of us find the sound of thunder and rain relaxing, many of our dogs are very fearful when they hear a storm. We also have the 4th of July approaching fast. With all the Independence Day celebrations come fireworks. This can definitely be the most stressful part of the whole year for some pets and their owners.  Don’t worry though, there are a lot of options out there and we are here to help.

Not sure what to look for? These are some signs of anxiety and stress:

  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Hiding
  • Clinging to the owner or another pet
  • Excessive drooling
  • Destructiveness
  • Excessive barking or crying

Here are some natural options for helping your dog through a thunderstorm, fireworks or any other situation that brings on anxiety. These are not listed in any certain order. All of our pets are individuals and you might need to try all of these or even a combination of these to find the right plan for your dog.

1. Thundershirt

The Thundershirt applies a gentle, constant pressure around your dogs torso. It can have an amazing calming effect, think of it as swaddling an infant. There are plenty of sizes available but measuring first is a good idea. If you go to their website you will find a sizing chart, training videos and they list many success stories. They even offer a 45 day money back guarantee!

2. Adaptil

Adaptil is a synthetic replica of the pheromone that mother dogs naturally emit to comfort their puppies. The company offers three different products to offer help with many different situations that cause stress, short and longterm. With any of their products they recommend trying the product for 30 days to see results.

  • Collar– The collars come in two sizes. When taken out of the sealed packaging they last for 30 days. It is okay for the collars to get wet but they won’t work again until the collar is dry.
  • Diffuser– The diffuser plug-ins look very similar to Glade Scent plug-ins. The refills last 30 days and cover 700 square feet.
  • Spray– The spray bottle is used more for short-term anxiety issues such as thunderstorms and fireworks. It can be sprayed on the dogs bedding, kennel, collar or Thundershirt. Do not spray it directly on the pet.  All it takes is 8-10 sprays on the item. Wait about 10 minutes before bringing the dog into the area. The spray will last 4-5 hours and can be repeated as needed.

3. Composure Pro

Composure is a chewable calming supplement.  It should work within 30 minutes and be effective for up to 4 hours.  This natural supplement is another safe option to help your pet with their anxiety.  It is safe to double or even triple the dose during very stressful times. There are other versions of Composure but Composure Pro is only available at veterinarians.

4. Aromatherapy

Many of you use essential oils at home but did you know you can use some of them for your pets? Here at Northern Vet we use diffusers with Lavender in them. We only put 1-2 drops in ours even though the bottle recommends up to 4 drops. We found it was too strong for some of us if we used more than that. It affects everyone differently and you need to do what’s best for your pet and yourself.

5. Give your dog something else to think about

Enrichment toys!

  1. Kong Original (Red or Black, Dark Blue if bought through a veterinarian)
    1. These stuffable toys are great. They are very tough and should be safe to give to your dog while unattended. Always supervise your dog when they get a new toy. No toy is 100% indestructible.*For a longer lasting Kong try freezing!
    2. There are also puppy and senior dog versions but these are not as tough as the ones we recommend and your dog should always be supervised while they have it.
  2. Buster Cube/ Kong Wobbler
    1. This cube is for filling with kibble or small hard treats. The dogs can toss and roll it around with their nose and feet to get the kibble to come out of the hole a few pieces at a time. This toy can be very loud and I find it best to use this in a kennel when you are going to be leaving your dog for awhile.
    2. Some people actually feed their dogs their daily meals out of these toys.
  3. Real bones w/ hollowed out centers
    1. These are also great for stuffing and freezing for your dog.
    2. Have your dog use it while you are with them for the first time and make sure they can’t crack the bone. Once you know it’s strong enough, these are also safe for giving to your dog while unattended.
  4. Kong Quest Toys
    1. These toys are wonderful for stuffing (and freezing) but must be used while the dog is being supervised. They ARE NOT chew proof. The bone version is the easiest to clean out and the majority of dogs seem to enjoy it the most.
    2. They are great to use while coming to the vet clinic for an appointment. You can give it to your dog to distract them in the lobby or in the exam room to give you time to talk with the doctor.
  5. Puzzles
    • Puzzles are fantastic for making dogs think. This is definitely a toy that needs to be supervised.
    • There are many puzzles available online but you can even make your own at home.
      • You will need a cupcake pan and a dozen tennis balls.
        1. Drop some kibble or treats in each cup cake spot.
        2. Place the tennis balls on top.
        3. You might need to encourage your dog at first and help them out a little.
      • Snuffle Mats
        1. Dogs love sniffing. Why not let them have fun with it by hiding food in a snuffle mat. A snuffle mat is basically a really shaggy carpet that you can hide treats in.
        2. There are places online where you can purchase one. There are also DIY videos on YouTube if you’re a crafty person.

What should your stuff your toys with? Spray cheese, Peanut Butter(***Make sure it doesn’t contain Xylitol which is poisonous to dogs!***), Canned dog food, dry kibble soaked in water, etc. Really the list could be quite long. Just make sure it is safe for your dog and that they love it too!!!

If you have tried all of these and still haven’t found the right combination for your dog, there are more options available. These medications all require an examination by your veterinarian and possibly bloodwork.

  1. Sileo -(dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel) Sileo is a newer medication that we started using just over a year ago.  It is designed to keep the dog calm, yet fully functional. Sileo is great for thunderstorms and fireworks. It works best if you can give it 30-60 minutes before the stressful event and a dose can be repeated 2 hours later if  the stressful event is still happening.                                                                                       
  2. Xanax -(Alprazolam) Xanax is another medication that works well for short stressful events. It’s a human medication so  you can get it from any pharmacy with a script from your veterinarian. You give the medication 1-2 hours before the stressful event occurs. It should last 6-8 hours and it can be repeated 4 hours after the initial dose.
  3. Prozac – (Fluoxetine) Prozac is used for dogs with long term anxiety, such as separation anxiety. It is also found at pharmacies. Usually a dog is given a single dose at the same time each day. It takes 4-6 weeks for the medication to take its full effect.
  4. Trazadone Trazodone can be administered as needed, once daily, or as often as every 12 hours. We like this medication because it can be used with Prozac. So if your dog with separation anxiety is also afraid of fireworks, you can give them Trazadone on those days. This medication can be picked up at a pharmacy as well.

Summer should be filled with fun activities and sunshine, unfortunately not everyday can be like this. If thunderstorms and fireworks are ruining you and your pets summer we hope you can find something on this list that helps. As always, give us a call if you have any questions. We are here to help!  906-485-6145