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.