How to help your pet deal with fireworks anxiety

John McDevitt
July 11, 2020 - 12:43 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The ongoing fireworks in the region are traumatizing a lot of pets.

The sounds and vibrations of fireworks affect different dogs in different ways, according to animal behaviorist Rachel Golub.

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"Some dogs are going to have an increase in anxiety and pace, other dogs are going to chew and destroy things, other dogs are going to try and escape, other dogs are going to try and hide," she described. 

There are medications available to reduce stress that veterinarians can prescribe, but Golub recommended trying other methods first.

"Chewing releases endorphins in all animals but primarily in dogs. So the more a dog chews, the less stressed and anxious they are,” said the adoptions and behavior manager for the Pennsylvania SPCA.

Golub suggested getting a hearty bone for your pup and combine that with a calming aid called Adaptil. 

"They have it as a spray, a room diffuser and as a collar," she said. "It does relieve anxiety in dogs in all different kinds of circumstances. it does help a lot with sound phobia."

She also suggested adding soothing music to the mix.

"If you are associating that music with feeding time and times when I get really good awesome things then you are kind of pre-programming that music to have positive association," explained Golub, "so when you do put it on in times of trauma, it does kind of snap their brains back to that nice relaxed mentality."

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Many animal behavior experts also said "Thundershirts" can comfort some dogs.

Golub, however, said they are hit or miss.

"I have found that they do help some of the more anxious dogs," she expressed.

It’s a compression therapy type of thing. The tightness of the Thundershirt makes the dog feel more secure.

"I would say," she added, "if I was going to use a Thundershirt, I would use it in conjunction with that Adaptil. If you can spray that Thundershirt with that Adaptil and then wrap it around the dog, it kind of hits them with that one-two punch, which is more effective than just one or the other."

According to Golub, the biggest myth out there is not to comfort your pet during this time because that will reinforce fear.

"The reality is you can't reinforce an emotion, only reinforce behavior. So comforting really does help your animal a lot."

Golub said it's just like hugging a scared child.

"You want to comfort them," she said, "so they do feel better so they can cope in those situations in a healthier manner."

Golub advised these methods won't instantly cure your dog, but when reinforced, they should help make your pet feel more at peace.