Help, My Dog Is Scared of Storms and Fireworks! By Your Carmel Vet


As a vet in Carmel, I see lots of dogs who are terrified of thunderstorms and think it is world war 3 when the fireworks start to explode.  Anxious dogs will often start to pant, pace, and whine but can even urinate and destroy the house when they panic.  Here is a guide to help control your dog’s fear of storms.

Should I try to reassure my dog by petting & telling him it’s OK?  NO.  Do NOT touch, pet, or try to reassure your dog when they are scared.  As a Carmel vet, I always remind people that this attention is a reward for the anxious and panic behavior, which will make it worse over time.  Although it may be difficult, try to ignore any fearful behavior that occurs.  Never punish a fearful dog as this will usually makes them more afraid.

 What can I do to help reduce the anxiety?  524169_10100280093617214_1220926810_n

1.  If you know there is a storm coming or the neighbors are planning a firework show, give your dog lots of exercise by going for a really long walk beforehand to tire your dog out.

2.    Practice training your dog to settle and focus on commands for treats and toys.  Teach them to come, sit, down, and stay.  Then reward your dog for being relaxed in the down and stay position.

3.  Give your dog a fun toy, a dental chew, or a long-lasting treat like a kong full of frozen peanut butter.  Playing a game of fetch can also help to distract from the fireworks and thunderstorms.

What changes to the environment can help minimize the fear of storms?

Make sure that the environment is safe and secure at all times.  When the storm and firework season begins, keep all windows and doors shut.  Close the curtains and blinds.  Put your dog’s crate in the center of the house or basement if available.  Always keep the dog’s crate open, but put a blanket over it to create a safe den area to escape if he/she feels overwhelmed.

Turn on some music with a constant beat to help drone out the scary sounds.  Box fans also work well.  Try to arrange company for your dog so he/she is not abandoned.  If you have two dogs, playing with the non-fearful dog often helps the scared dog relax and join the fun.

Are there any veterinary drugs which might be helpful?

Your Carmel vet should consider drug therapy when behavior and environmental changes alone are not enough.  For mild cases, sedatives can be used to help reduce the anxiety to the point where the behavior modification can work.  The goal is to take the edge off, NOT to knock the dog out.  So never give more the prescribed amount without consulting with your Carmel vet.

For more severe cases, anti-depressants can be used on a long-term basis.  Simple blood tests are needed by your Carmel vet before starting these long-term medications to check the liver, kidneys, etc…

Are there any other natural holistic things that can help?

The dog appeasing pheromone spray/plug-in (DAP®) and natural products such as melatonin and lavender might also be considered to aid relaxation.  Anxiety wraps or mats that reduce static usually provide no significant benefit to most dogs, but can help some and there is no possible harm in trying one.

Thunderstorms and fireworks can make many dogs anxious, so follow as many guidelines above so your dog can have a happy summer.  For more information on our Caring Hand Compassionate Hearts, click on this link to your Carmel Vet.

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