the Fourth of July just around the corner, many of us
dog owners must begin to prepare for the inevitable:
fireworks. The fact that our county and state are even
allowing the sale of fireworks to the public during a
severe drought is ridiculous, but, alas, that is a topic
for another column.
startling bangs, booms and whistles of fireworks going
off at random times, and sometimes for a number of days,
can cause your dog to become moderately to severely
frightened and anxious, and all dog owners should take
some precautionary measures during this trying time of
your very best to place your dog in a safe environment
when even an occasional firework is likely to occur. At
minimum, your dog should be indoors, with ambient music
or white noise playing in the background to mask the
sounds of the outdoors. If your dog has a tendency to
react and panic when fireworks are heard, containment in
a crate should be considered for your pet’s own
safety. Dogs can do incredible things to escape when
they are afraid; chewing through doors, jumping fences,
diving through windows and digging to freedom are all
within the realm of possibility, but this risk can be
minimized with some planning and placing of your dog in
a safe environment.
that become moderately to highly stressed at the sound
of fireworks often benefit greatly from proper
medication. But one must be sure to give the right drug.
Acepromazine is often prescribed by veterinarians for
dogs with noise phobias, but it is a poor choice. Dr.
Marty Becker ("America’s Veterinarian")
writes, "Once widely prescribed for noise phobias,
Acepromazine not only doesn’t work, it might make
things much worse."
Karen L. Overall, one of the leading veterinary
behaviorists in the world, published in DVM360:
"Some dogs experience fear only in specific
situations, such as during fireworks or other events
with loud noises. Benzodiazepines (BZs) can help in
these situations by reducing fear as needed right when
these situations occur. BZs take effect quickly, so they
can treat impending fear within a short period of time
— the same way an aspirin relieves a headache shortly
after you take it. . . .A minor drawback is that BZs
must be given to the dog before the fearful event
begins. Optimally, the medicine should be given one hour
before the beginning of the scary event, or, at minimum,
it should be given before the dog shows any signs of
fear or worry, such as stress panting, trembling, tail
tucking, pupil dilation, sweating paw pads, etc."
common benzodiazepines are diazepam (Valium), alprazolam
(Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), lorazepam (Ativan)
and clonazepam (Klonopin). These drugs work by
increasing the activity of a chemical in the brain that
interferes with activation of the fear networks. They
can be used on a short-term basis and are a far better
choice than Acepromazine.
further states: "I know that the common ‘treatment’
for storm and noise phobias and veterinary office visits
is Acepromazine. In truth, I wish this medication would
be placed at the far back of a top shelf and used only
exceptionally. Acepromazine is a dissociative
anesthetic, meaning that it scrambles perceptions. Ask
yourself if a scrambling of perceptions will make an
anxious or uncertain dog worse or better. It’s always
worse, and we make many if not most dogs more sensitive
to storms by using this drug. In part, this is also
because sensitivity to noise is heightened."
this information with your veterinarian, and together
make the best and most informed decision concerning the
proper and effective medication to offer your dog during
this stressful time.