dog afraid of fireworks

Pets ready for Fireworks?

In the next few days many of us will be treated to (or cursed by) fireworks and even a few skyward gunshots, all to improve our outlook for the New Year. Oh sure, these immature and potentially dangerous antics fall into the category of irresponsible human behavior (explosions must boost the neurochemical dopamine) but I write the Pet Care column. I’ll leave the commentary on human shenanigans for the editorial page. Beyond the risk from fires, injuries, and bullets obeying the law of gravity, our pets can suffer badly.

Emotional distress in dogs isn’t hard to recognize. Those who are severely anxious tremble, hide, pace, pant, and seek solace from their person. If only moderately wiggy, they may lick their lips and yawn. People who believe that frightened dogs should just buck up and get over it are missing an important – and easily managed – animal welfare problem. We humans understand that these festive explosions are unlikely to abruptly end our lives but our pets don’t know that. Compassionate care is in order and it’s actually quite easy to administer.

A canine-specific medication, intended for noise aversion, comes in a gel for absorption across the membranes in the mouth. Available from your veterinarian, Sileo is administered between the cheek and gum, allowing it to reduce anxiety quickly. It’s easy for everybody.

All FDA approved medications are subjected to research. In the case of Sileo, the studies were actually conducted during New Year’s Eve fireworks events. I’ve also prescribed Sileo for storm and hot air balloon phobia and for one dog who freaked-out over visits from the garbage truck.

Sileo works best if given prior to the onset of the New Year’s Eve bombing raid but it will calm dogs who are already ramped-up. It can be redosed as often as every 2 hours. Dogs don’t mind the taste and they don’t act sedated.

Is it worth it to make life easier for scared pets? Well, we treat physical pain. Reducing fear is no less important for creatures stuck in the weirdness of a human culture that many of us can’t possibly understand.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.