Veterinary Assistant Lacy Failing goes over some tips an training exercises to help your pets have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
The season of fireworks is upon us. This can be a stressful time for many dogs and cats. For those pets who are anxious and scared by the excessive noise and explosions, we often prescribe anti-anxiety medications and/or sedatives. These pet medications can be very helpful as a part of your overall strategy to reduce the anxiety that these stressful events can have on you and your animals.
The key components to successful stress prevention for your pet are to plan ahead and, if using medication, to start dosing well before there is any stimulus that causes fear and anxiety. Once your pet hears the noise and becomes fearful or anxious, it greatly reduces the effectiveness of the medication and/or stress-relieving efforts.
We recommend that you start using sedatives or anti-anxiety medication at 1/2 dosing at least 2-4 days before you expect fireworks to start. On the day you expect noise in your neighborhood, you should start giving the full dose early in the day, well before the noise begins.
When starting any new medication of this type, we recommend that you do a "trial run" before it is needed so you can see how your animal reacts to the new sedative or anti-anxiety medication.
Regardless of what day of the week the 4th falls on, there will often be fireworks noise beginning days before the holiday and continuing for days after the holiday. Many neighborhoods experience fireworks at other times of the year as well, such as during football season and New Year’s Eve. If this is likely to be the case in your neighborhood, please remember to put in your request for medication early so that it can be started before the noise begins.
If you are are happy with the medication you have used in the past, we encourage you to put in your order early so that you have it on hand. Please note that your pet must be current on their Wellness Exam for the clinic to dispense medication. If you would like to try other medications that may be more effective than something you have tried before, and if your pet is current on their Wellness Exam, please call us and we will be happy to discuss options.
Historically, we have prescribed sedatives like Acepromazine for many dogs. This medication is often effective, but it does cause sedation and does not specifically relieve stress. For the past few years, we have prescribed Trazodone more commonly because it has anti-anxiety and sedative effects.
We now, also, carry Sileo which is the only FDA approved medication specifically for the treatment of noise aversion in dogs. This medication is unique since it calms without sedating. It can be used by itself or in combination with other medications based on your doctor’s recommendations. This medication can be used for any noise issues including fireworks, thunder, construction, etc. For extended noise events, Sileo should be re-dosed approximately every 2 hours, up to 5 doses per event. To learn more about Sileo, click here.
There are also medication options for cats. Usually, we prescribe Gabapentin to help fearful kitties. It can be used to help calm them in many situations that cause them to be fearful, such as fireworks, thunder, travel in cars, or trips to the vet. Gabapentin can be used in both cats and dogs.
We also carry a natural supplement derived from milk which is lactose free, and is typically used in addition to medication. The product is called Zylkene ia given once a day. Zylkene is safe for use in both cats and dogs.
In addition to medication, here are a few other suggestions you can try to help prevent noise-induced fear and stress:
If possible, travel to a quieter area away from your home for the July 4th holiday.
If staying at home, try to create a safe place for your dog or cat to be during the fireworks. They tend to feel safest in enclosed, den-like areas. Some pets find a closet, bathroom, or kennel to hide in when they are frightened. If you know where your pet’s “safe spot” is, get it ready so it is accessible and comfortable for them. Ideally, you can work with your pet prior to any stress to make this a safe place where they get treats and enjoy being.
Having other noise in the house to help mask the sudden explosions can also be helpful. Some people have the volume of music and television turned up to help drown out the loud noises. If possible, having the windows closed and the shades or curtains closed can help create a quieter, safer environment.
As part of our Fear Free commitment as a clinic to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress, we want to help you and your pet have as stress-free and enjoyable July 4th holiday as possible. If you would like to know more about the Fear Free movement, you can visit their site here: Fear Free
Please feel free to call with any questions or requests.
Thank you for allowing us to care for your furry family.
Diane Boudreau, Client Services.
Timothy R Kraabel, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline Practice)
Vice President American Board of Veterinary Practitioners
This entry was updated on 6/10/19 in order to provide the most current veterinary advice.
Ask anyone at Lien, they will agree that I am a cat lady; whether or not I'm classified as a crazy one depends on who you ask, but I embrace the moniker wholeheartedly! I love cats and am passionate about caring and advocating for them. Cats are complicated creatures, with many differences from dogs that can make them challenging to handle or care for, so we do many things to make our practice more cat-friendly and fear-free.
I visit the cats in kitty boarding for cuddles daily, sometimes dispensing catnip or letting out the more confident ones for individual recess time. We have Feliway plug-ins that disperse aerosolized synthetic calming pheromones, and anxious cats are given "privacy curtains" on their kennels to hide behind; the same goes for surgery and dental patients. I also like to visit those patients to give them some love—most are happy to receive, even when anxious!
Handling and treating cats comes with its own set of challenges - they are often tired of being poked and prodded by doctors, then they have to deal with even more invasive procedures after the exam! We do our best to bring treatments to an anxious cat, as keeping it in the room can greatly help. Unlike dogs, cats often give very few or no warning signs before their fuse runs out, and they can strike out fast and hard, so knowing how to minimize stress and maximize safe handling is essential.
We always restrain animals in a gentle and supportive manner - some cats can be restrained by being held on their side by their scruff, while others do better wrapped in a towel, burrito-style. Most cats are best for blood drawn from a back leg, but some will do very well for a jugular blood draw, usually performed on dogs. We always prioritize diagnostics and treatments over things like toenail trims and anal gland expressions so that we accomplish the most important tasks in case the cat runs out of patience.
Another aspect of being cat-friendly is premedication. We have some feline patients who are too fractious (aggressive) to handle or treat, and the mere prospect of wrangling a furious feline to get them to the clinic is enough to deter some owners from annual exams, only bringing the cat in when it is sick or injured. Believe me, I know the feeling - my Bengals caterwaul and scream on the way to and at the vet, making visits unpleasant for all of us! In order to minimize stress for the cat, owner, and clinic staff alike while simultaneously maximizing quality of care, our doctors will often prescribe a pre-visit sedative.
Gabapentin, a pain medication with excellent sedative and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, has become a fast favorite among our doctors. When assistants and technicians perceive that a patient is particularly stressed, we will often ask a doctor to prescribe a pre-visit medication so that the next visit will go more smoothly. The combination of sedation and anti-anxiety can calm a cat, preventing the fight-or-flight response that leads to aggression and prevents treatment.
Cats are strange and wonderful creatures, and deserve our love and help. They are often much more discerning and hard to please than dogs - no offense to either species! - but I think this is what makes them special. As anyone who has met me knows, I am thrilled to meet every cat, whether or not they reciprocate the sentiment! I have been sent to the ER with my share of cat bites, but I am not deterred from caring for them to the best of my ability, nor will I ever be. I am glad to be practicing at a clinic like Lien, where we constantly strive to be cat-friendly and fear-free.
Erika Price, Veterinary Assistant
To see Erika and Mckenzy, a member of our kennel crew, in kitty boarding, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4BSzaLSZlY&feature=youtu.be