It’s nearly time for the fourth of July, and if you live in Arizona, you know that means: Fireworks, monsoons, heat and overcrowded animal shelters.
The risk of injury to pets is much greater during fireworks. Dogs have cracked or even lost teeth as they frantically gnash furniture or try to escape the house. Arizona is dangerous enough – keeping your pet safe requires you to be vigilant.
We don’t want to see your four-legged family members injured or in “pet prison”, so we urge you to read this article and take action on it today!
Things to Do Today:
- Check microchips are updated with current information and register at free microchip registries.
- Consider a dog monitor collar so you can monitor heart rate and other issues.
- Make sure your pets are wearing collars with ID on them.
- Plan your night early – if you need a pet sitter, make sure you reserve TODAY!
- Order your intellectual games (puzzle games, etc.) to ensure they arrive on time.
- Order your Thundershirt to ensure it arrives on time.
- Order your pet’s medication from your veterinarian.
While there are prescription drugs available for dogs and cats, it’s best to avoid them if you can. Nevertheless, if you do feel like your dog will need something extra, it’s better to have it on hand than call your vet at 11 pm the night fireworks are going off. Let’s talk about a few of the more popular ones…
Gabapentin has traditionally been used to manage seizures and neuropathic pain, but it has also been found to reduce anxiety in pets. Although it is associated with sedation, it also creates a reduction in anxiety for many dogs (especially during the early days of treatment). Its mechanism of action is complex and not fully understood. Gabapentin may also be used as a sole agent for anxiety, although this is relatively uncommon. This medication takes time to build in the system, so begin treating a few days or weeks before the anticipated stress event.
In many cases, gabapentin is combined with trazodone when trazodone alone is insufficient to alleviate anxiety. Trazodone has been used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, alone or in combination with other behavioral medications. Be sure you discuss these options with your veterinarian.
Some drugs, like acepromazine, could increase your pets stress, while decreasing their ability to naturally fight it. The majority of these types of drugs can lower or increase your pet’s heart rate and decrease their ability to regulate body temperature. This is especially true if they have a common gene mutation resulting in MDR1 (MultiDrug Resistance).
Many herding breeds (most commonly Collies and Australian Shepherds) have a mutation at the MDR1 gene that makes them more sensitive to the negative effects of certain medications. Sedatives, such as those commonly given as components of a balanced anesthetic protocol (acepromazine, butorphanol), may also show stronger effects in dogs with MDR1 mutation. This is a very subtle difference in degree of sedation and duration of sedation. These dogs can still receive typical anesthetic drugs safely; however, veterinarians may choose to use lower doses in dogs who are suspected or known to possess an MDR1 mutation (Source: VCA Hospital).
Natural calmants are not only effective, they are very gentle and can help relax your pets without dangerous side effects. These are a few of the more effective natural calmants that we’ve found for dogs and cats. We have personally tested each of them and are listing them in order of preference.
I list pheromones first because they are perfect for “everyday” management of a multi-species home. I don’t use them for specific events, I use them all year long. They work by creating a synthetic copy of a dog or cat’s facial pheromone, which is then diffused to reassure other cats or dogs in the home.
Pheromones are available in a variety of delivery methods, including plug in diffusers, ointment that is typically applied to the top of the nose, sprays and more.
These are a few more unorthodox ways to calm your pets down during fireworks or thunderstorms.
- Thundershirt: These shirts are designed to calm your pets by giving them a feeling of being held. Like swaddling an infant, ThunderShirt’s patented design applies gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, fear, and over-excitement issues.
- Licks ZEN: Licks ZEN can be placed on your dog or cat’s paw about an hour before the fireworks, and you’ll have relaxed pets for the next 6-8 hours. LICKS uses an all-natural combination of organic ingredients that naturally promote calm, zen-like activity with your pets.
- Canine Calm: Canine Calm features a water-based formula made with a sunflower-honeysuckle preservative system and 100% plant-derived ingredients, including pure essential oils of bergamot, tangerine, lavender, geranium, marjoram and ylang ylang. This calmant is even made right here in Arizona!
- Bachs Rescue Remedy: This can be added to the water just an hour or so before your pets need it. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a combination of flower water remedies. Herbal remedies generally work more on the physical level where as Flower Remedies work on the emotional energy level.
- DogTV: Calming your pet down may be just as easy as turning on the tv. DogTV creates programming for pets and it may be able to calm your pets down.
Things to Do the Day of:
- Verify exterior security
- Each day you should be walking your fence line to check for weaknesses and ensure the gate is closed. We also suggest padlocking your gate during monsoon season as they do tend to blow open.
- Ensure your pets are microchipped and wearing a collar with Identification at all times.
- Padlock Gate(s)
- Inspect fence
- Exercise your pets early.
- Feed your pets early.
- Get them comfortable early.
- Distract with intellectual games (puzzle games, etc.)
Prepare Interior Security
- Create a happy place. Your dogs will feel much better if they are in an area that they have already qualified as safe. This may be a room, a kennel, under the stairs, or in the basement. Whatever it is, you need to be sure you’re calm there as well.
- Do a walk through of the room and ensure it’s safe for your pets. Remove any hazardous material, make it super comfy with a favorite bed, food, water, and toys. Most importantly, get your pets used to being there.
- Keep yourself calm as well. It can be very stressful working with an animal who is stressed. Reading to your pets aloud can help calm you and your pets.
The most important part of preparing pets for fireworks and thunderstorms is to have a plan. If you know your dog or cat is easily stressed, it’s best to stay home with them or hire a pet sitter who can be on site.