Albuquerque Journal Article – Fireworks Fear

Comfort Scared Pets with Good Management

Startled by earsplitting blasts, many otherwise stable pets will endure almost continual panic this weekend. Scared dogs may hide, tremble, drool, cry or howl, and even urine soil, vomit or pass diarrhea. Many get clingy but some escape the home and risk getting hit in the road.

A freaked-out dog or cat needs reassurance, but shelter from the bombardment is even better. Allow an anxious pet to find relief anywhere she feels better. A bathroom, dark closet, or an open pet crate, located away from windows and exterior walls, should be available. Unpredictable flashes trigger even more fear so close the blinds and turn off the TV.

You can cancel out some of the racket with a white noise machine or a loud fan. “Through a Dog’s Ear” is music that promotes canine-specific calming brain waves.  Mutt Muffs, well tolerated by most dogs, also help dampen loud noises. Some feel better wearing a Thundershirt. I recommend promoting a calm emotional state by plugging in an Adaptil pheromone diffuser.

A compelling, canine-specific behavioral opportunity can also make a difference. Foraging for their survival is an innate behavior for all dogs, wild or domestic. With his morning meal withheld a food-motivated dog can focus on extracting his sustenance from a food-dispensing toy or puzzle much as he would scavenge in the wild. With survival as his primary focus he’ll be less inclined to fuss and belly ache about the neighbors and their pyrotechnic proclivities.

There are oral antianxiety medications that can be given as-needed. Alprazolam is helpful for dogs; lorazepam is better for cats. A new prescription treatment, called Sileo, is a gel that is placed between a dog’s lower lip and gum. With no sedation or side effects Sileo, best administered prior to the artillery assault, can also be given after the explosions are underway. This short acting “oral-transmucosal” treatment can be repeated every 2 hours. Sileo is safe when given along with other medications.

Avoid the tranquilizer acepromazine. This old fashioned drug sedates pets but does little to reduce anxiety. Unable to physically act out their fear, groggy pets on “ace” are trapped in a chemical straightjacket, leading to intense panic. Get ready now. Freaked-out pets who are left to fend for themselves worsen with each terrifying event.


Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Questions on pet behavioral or physical concerns? For answers, Like my Facebook page or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.