Ways we can reduce stress levels in pets during firework celebrations, thunderstorms and more…
With the arrival of summer to our beautiful Gulf Coast region of Florida, we hope you are enjoying this very warm, yet fun time of year. There is never a lack of activities to enjoy with our human and pet families around the areas of Sarasota and Manatee counties and summer events are no exception. It is important to note with the increase of summertime activities, pets also have special needs with each seasonal change. We should always keep the safety and well-being of our beloved pets in mind as their stress levels can increase during this time when fireworks, public outings and thunderstorms are abundant.
With the July 4th Holiday approaching, pets can have adverse reactions to abrupt sounds such as fireworks, loud music and the gathering of crowds as we celebrate America’s Independence. In general, the summer months can be packed full of events and celebrations that cause anxiety for pets, not just fireworks. Intense thunder and lightning storms become more frequent during this time and it is very common for pets to become very nervous during severe weather. Family vacations, out-of-town-guests and an increase in travel with your pet(s) can also create anxious situations, yet owners can take several proactive steps before a pet’s stress level begins to rise.
The following suggestions are ways to help protect and calm your pet(s) during stressful situations:
- Keep pets indoors during firework displays and thunderstorms. Pets can react adversely when exposed to abrupt sounds such as fireworks and thunderstorms. A very instinctual reaction for a pet to have when stressed by loud noises is to run or escape to a place deemed “safer” by your pet. Keeping your pet indoors when stressed will help prevent your pet from running away and potentially being permanently lost. More pets become lost during the Fourth of the July than any other holiday!
- Make sure pets have proper ID and are microchipped in case they do escape or run away. Having proper ID on your pet and also having your pet microchipped are proactive ways your pet can be identified if they do run away when stressed.
- Don’t leave pets home alone during firework displays or thunderstorms. Just like children, pet’s need to be comforted when scared. Staying with your pet or having someone else stay with your pet during storms and fireworks can provide an extra sense of comfort and safety to your pet.
- Turn on the TV or radio to distract your pet from loud noises. By offering a sound barrier that will detract from imposing and stressful sounds, your pet’s stress level can be reduced.
- Close curtains or blinds during thunderstorms or neighborhood firework displays to shield animals from the light. By keeping your pet away from the sights of lightening or fireworks, their anxiety can be reduced. During such times, comforting your pet in a room away from windows may also be helpful.
- Don’t allow pets to be exposed to firework debris after the celebration. As mentioned, fireworks can cause a lot of anxiety in pets, yet leftover debris can also be very toxic to pets if ingested. If neighborhood firework celebrations have taken place in a vicinity in which your pet has access, ensure there are no remnants of firework debris scattered around the area.
- Be proactive before thunderstorms arrive by staying updated on weather conditions. By staying attuned to severe weather conditions, pet owners can plan accordingly if pets feel better with supervision and/or a familiar face to comfort them during stressful situations.
- Use pheromones to help calm your dog or cat. Calming agents such as Adaptil™ for dogs and Feliway™ for cats work by exposing your pet to pheromones that are perceived naturally by pets as calming agents. Referred to as “appeasing pheromones”, these agents can be lightly sprayed onto a pillow, blanket, bedding and more which may help comfort a pet during stressful situations. At each of our animal hospitals, we have these products available and complimentary samples are available. Our veterinarians have also been known to spray these pheromones on their clothing to help alleviate stress for pets while in our exam rooms. Directions for use are labeled on the products or consult with a team member if you are interested in trying a pheromone calming agent for your pet.
- Try relieving pet anxiety through a tactile stimuli. There are several products on the market that offer tactile ways to reduce stress in pets including the very popular Thundershirt™. Used in a way that provides comforts by simulating the feeling of being “swaddled” by a pet’s nurturing mother, owners can try this method to see if their pet’s anxiety is reduced. Using a smaller-sized t-shirt may also work on anxious pets. It is always important to make sure that any garment used is not too tight or confining. Supervision is also recommended when pets are wearing a “calming shirt” to prevent entanglement.
- Consult with your veterinarian if sedation is necessary. Some pets may experience such high levels of anxiety during particular situations that sedation may be recommended by a veterinarian. Pet owners are more than welcome to discuss this option with one of our doctors who will determine which sedative is appropriate for your pet including the correct dosage and strength.
At Braden River Animal Hospital and North River Animal Hospital, we are available to offer our medical and behavioral expertise if you have a pet who is easily stressed. Discussing anxiety-related issues with one of our veterinarians can assist us in helping you formulate ways to help alleviate stressors that can impact the quality of your pet’s life.