Tips for keeping your pets happy and comfortable during fireworks season.

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With Memorial Day behind us, a summer full of barbecues, bonfires, and fireworks is now upon us. While beautiful to look at, fireworks can pose dangers, both emotional and physical, to our pets. In fact, July 4th tends to be the busiest time of year for animal shelters, who take in run-aways spooked by the large crowds, bright lights, and scary sounds. We often find dogs will “do anything” to escape these frightening and overstimulating nights, including running through windows, screen doors, or attempting to flee wherever they are in search of a calmer environment. Pets that are anxious may display signs of stress including panting, restlessness, trembling, vocalizing, and salivating. Others may act more clingy or attached than usual, whining to jump into their owners’ laps, hiding, or running away.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to minimize the stress caused by fireworks celebrations, we at Worth Street Veterinary Center have listed some suggestions that you may find helpful to keep your loved ones safe and calm during the festivities.
ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES:
In order to minimize the sensory overload that often comes with fireworks for your pets, here are some quick tips:
– Provide as safe a space as possible for your pet. This can include basements, where available, or even keeping him or her in room away from the windows.
– We find that anxious pets tend to drink more water, so ensuring that water bowls are full is important. Doubly so given the heat and humidity during summer!
– A white noise machine (or even simply leaving the radio or television on) can help drown out a lot of the outside noise. Similarly, keeping the curtains drawn and the lights out may also be effective.
SUPPLEMENTS AND OTHER COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES:
There are a variety of supplements that can be used to decrease stress or anxiety.
– Pressure wraps such as Thunder Shirts can be used to have a calming effect.
– Ear muffs and calming caps can be used to decrease overstimulation.
– Pheremone Collars such as Adaptil (dogs) and Feliway (cats) are synthetic hormones used to replicate the hormones that lactating females give off to calm their puppies or kittens.
– CBD oil has been shown to successfully decrease anxiety or stress in pets.
– Other natural supplements such as Composure Chews, Solliquin, and Anxitane are mild anti-anxiety supplements containing L-theanine.
– Zylkene is another mild anti-anxiety supplement containing milk casein derivative that can be used alone or in conjunction with other supplements to achieve the desired effects.
MEDICATIONS:
If the above supplements are not effective, or if your pet suffers from extreme anxiety, there are a variety of prescription medications that can be effective to help decrease the stress of fireworks season. These include medications such as gabapentin, trazodone, alprazolam, and others. While some medications such as fluoxetine do not reach peak effect until given regularly for 1-2 months, others can be more helpful in a pinch. Please feel free to contact us to discuss what options are best for you and your pets.
IMPORTANT FACTS:
While we often will reach for medications that are also used in human medicine, please consult your veterinarian prior to using any medications that you have at home. Dosages are very different between pets and humans, and some medications can be highly toxic to animals. We are happy and available to discuss the safest and most appropriate protocols for your pets with you at any time.
For the majority of therapies, they are most effective if given before a pet is already anxious or “up-regulated.” Giving a sedative after the fireworks start may be insufficiently effective, so anticipating fireworks-induced stress in advance may be incredibly valuable.
Each medication has a different effect in each pet. As a result, we recommend giving supervised “test” doses prior to the fireworks so that we can best customize your pet’s protocol.
LASTLY:
Identification: Making sure your pet is microchipped (and registered with your up-to-date contact information!) will hopefully help any worst-case-scenario end happily. If your pet does escape, a collar and name tag (with phone number) and/or microchip can help trace him or her back to you.
We hope these tips will be of value to you and your fur family, but should any questions arise, please don’t hesitate to call us at 212-257-6900 or e-mail us at help@worthstreetvet.com. From all of us here at Worth Street Veterinary Center, we wish you a very happy and safe summer and 4th of July!
 

Dr. Levine and the Worth Street Veterinary Center Team

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