Updated: Sep 24, 2018
For pet owners who have experienced thunderstorm phobia or noise anxiety with their pets, particularly dogs, the summer time can be dreadful! Our Florida summers are wrought with frequent, pop-up thunderstorms, and holidays such as the Fourth of July are celebrated with fireworks. It's important to recognize pets may be affected by these situations and how to properly treat their anxiety or phobia.
Anxiety during a thunderstorm or to loud noises such as fireworks can develop over time in pets. If the anxiety becomes extreme it can develop into a thunderstorm phobia. Various clinical signs may be seen immediately preceding or during a thunderstorm. These signs include panting, trembling, pacing, vocalizing, hiding, attention-seeking behavior, or severe destructive behavior. Anxiety to fireworks can show similar signs or behaviors and may include inappropriate elimination in the house if they are fearful of going outdoors. Some pets may exhibit anxiety to both situations (basically “loud” or “noisy” events, including gun fire).
For those with mild anxiety, simple exercises such as relaxation techniques, playing music, or fun exercises (i.e. playing with a toy), is enough to distract them from the noise. Providing a safe haven for these pets away from windows or doors where the noise may be the loudest is also ideal. For more severely affected pets, additional measures such as wraps or medications may be warranted. A wrap such as a Thundershirt® may be used alone or in conjunction with medications or a calming collar or spray. Medications can be used immediately preceding an event or given daily depending on the individual. Your veterinarian can work with you to determine which medication may work best for your pet. If the anxiety is severe and destructive behavior is occurring which may put the pet at risk of injury or death, a consultation with a certified veterinary behaviorist may be recommended.
If you suspect your pet may be suffering from thunderstorm phobia or firework anxiety, please contact your veterinarian today to schedule a consultation and discuss appropriate treatment options.