Summer is on our heels. A glorious
time of year; however, out of all the seasons, summer can be the
most frightening for our canines and felines. With the onset of
fireworks and thunderstorms, our pets' sensitivity to noise can
be the cause of dangerous anxiety attacks.
The symptoms of an anxiety attack are obvious. Pets become
nervous and unsettled. Heavy breathing or panting, pacing and
even vomiting can occur. If these symptoms are not addressed,
pets can become destructive to couches, backyard fences, their
favorite toys and even to themselves. It's entirely natural for
them to attempt escape. Dr. Jane had a client in Florida with a
German Shepherd that became so frightened one Fourth of July
evening that he dove right through the front window! He was
badly hurt and Dr. Jane had to treat him with several stitches
and a tranquilizer.
Thousands of pets end up in animal shelters during the summer
months, especially around Independence Day. In fact, shelters
now refer to runaway canines as 'Fourth of July Dogs.' Sadly,
many of these dogs and cats are never reunited with their owners
due to insufficient or outdated identification.
We at HPN want to help you to avoid any unnecessary pain or
loss. Below are a few tips for helping your pet through these
Some trainers recommend conditioning
your pet to loud noises -- desensitization, in other words. CD's
of fireworks and thunder are available to help condition your
pet. Play it softly and gradually increase the volume while
engaging in a pleasant game with your pet or giving a treat,
such as HPN's Wholesome Hearts for Dogs or Purr-fectly Natural
Cat Treats. This will help your pet associate the noise with
Even though this desensitization
technique will teach your pet to respond in non-fearful ways to
frightening stimuli, please understand that the noise of thunder
generally comes with weather changes that your pet can easily
sense, so don't expect a 100% turn around.
Confine your pet to a safe place
just before and during the storm/festivities. Where does your
pet feel most safe? The closet, under the futon, in a cage, on
your bed? Make this favorite space comfortable with water and
dry food and soft music to help distract him or her from the
Be sure that your pet can't escape. It only takes one second for
your cat to run through your legs and out the door. Keep all
doors and windows closed and don't open them when your pet is in
the room. Just in case, make sure your pet is wearing a current
I.D tag on its collar. Microchips and tattoos are also good
options because they can never come off.
Contact your vet beforehand to discuss tranquilizer options. If
you want to go natural, here are a few ways: (a) one product is
called Calms Forte, available at health food stores. This
homeopathic product is 100% safe, even for infants. It will take
the edge off of fear but not as much as a prescription
(b) Valerium is an herb commonly used for dogs with fear. It
tastes so bad that the chances of giving it to a cat are
(c) Dr. Jane also recommends trying warm milk with honey. It
hits the sleep center in the brain and helps your pet to relax.
Some vets recommend anti-histamines that have the side effect of
sleep. Some pets are given tranquilizers or human anti-anxiety
drugs like Elavil by their family vet.
Do not punish your pet for being afraid. It's not your pet's
fault and you will only cause him or her to be more fearful.
Overall, pets suffering from noise anxiety can be helped through
proper planning, prevention and loving reassurance from their
owners. Pay attention to the level of anxiety your pet has (it
can vary vastly) and work with your vet to determine the best
treatment method possible. If your pet is not responding to
anything you do, ask for a veterinarian behaviorist or a PhD in
animal psychology. Don't give up.