Fireworks, Thunderstorms, and Big Booms, Oh My!
How to Navigate Loud Noises That Scare Your Pet
Many dogs and cats experience anxiety when they hear sudden, loud noises. With the Fourth of July quickly approaching and social distancing not as strictly enforced, more people will be gathering for holiday parties where fireworks may be set off at odd times and in unexpected locations. Plus summertime’s higher temperatures can also create more frequent thunderstorms. When your pet is upset, you want to provide as much comfort as you can for them, so they know that they are safe and secure with you.
What does a scared pet look like?
A scared pet will show many signs of discomfort. They may run and hide to a place they feel is safest, often in an interior room like a bedroom or bathroom. Cats will hide in closets or under a bed, or other places where it may be difficult for you to reach them. Other signs of a distressed dog may include tongue flicking, ears back, whale eyes, trembling, a tail that is down and tucked, or nervous yawning. They may be clingy, and want to cuddle closely with you, or they may show heavy panting, or drooling.
What can I do to help my pet?
First of all, take your dog outside before it gets dark to avoid fireworks. When your pet is stressed you should try and create a safe, calm environment for them. Reduce the noises they can hear by setting up a comfortable place for them in the quietest part of the home. Place a bed, their favorite toys and treats in the basement, or an interior room to help insulate them from the noises outside, and create a calm environment for them. Drowning out the sounds with more familiar, louder sounds, may also help. White noise, music, podcasts, or your favorite show, can all be helpful sounds to reduce noises that frighten your pet. Low frequency sounds, like a box fan set on high or a window air conditioning unit, can be helpful. Keep your pet indoors during these events. If a pet gets outside during these stressful times they can become scared and disoriented, and may run away in response. Melissa Klett, Behavior Specialist with The Anti-Cruelty Society, recommends owners get their pets, including indoor cats, microchipped and ensure the information is up-to-date.
“You never know when there is going to be an accident,” Klett said. “Maybe someone goes through the door and isn’t looking and the cat just freaks and runs, or a branch falls and breaks a window.” If your pet’s microchip is up-to-date, your pet can be reunited with you
There are also products available that may help your dog. Mutt Muffs are earmuffs for dogs that can help drown out the loud sounds of fireworks or thunderstorms. A Thundershirt compresses your dog strategically in the right places, so it’s a little like a bear hug for your freaked out friend. Serving loose catnip for your cat to ingest, rather than inserting it inside of their favorite toy, will help them to feel calmer. Comfort Zone is a spray that releases relaxing pheromones that signal to a cat that a spot is safe and will help reduce their anxiety.
When to call a vet
Some dogs are so stressed out that talking to your veterinarian might help. Knowing that thunderstorms and fireworks often happen unpredictably, just means you should prepare for the next time your pal becomes anxious. Especially if your dog shows excessive panting or heavy drooling, call your veterinarian when the event has passed and schedule an appointment. Your vet may recommend a holistic or a prescription treatment to keep on hand for the next time your pet becomes anxious.
Give your pet all the comfort they need
Soothe and calm your dog as much as it takes to make them feel safe and happy when they are scared by fireworks or thunderstorms. Sometimes pet owners are concerned that comforting their pet during routine events like thunderstorms will just cause their pet to associate fear with being cuddled and soothed, which may lead your pet to associate their bad behavior with things they like. This is just not true.
“Fear is such an unpleasant emotion for your dog, that doing something in that moment that they like is not going to cause them to associate the fear with comfort, said Klett. “All you’re doing is calming them, not reinforcing that bad behavior.”
If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.