As the 4th of July and the summer holiday seasons are upon us, this is the time of year when many pets will experience the sounds and noises of summer, including fireworks and thunderstorms. There are many steps that animal guardians can take to help make this time of year more comfortable for our animal companions. The first thing is to try and know when fireworks and/or bad weather may be approaching. Paying close attention to weather forecasts as well as contacting local municipalities about firework schedules are always good ideas. Make sure pets’ ID tags and microchips are up to date, as this makes it easier to identify them should they run off during a firework display or storm. Desensitization techniques may help pets feel less anxious regarding loud noises by using CDs of fireworks, trains, thunder, etc, starting soft and gradually increasing the volume in order to attempt to get pets used to increasing noise levels.
Before the summer season starts it is also important to prepare the house, as this is the pet’s safety zone. It is usually best to keep some lights on, which may calm anxious pets. Dampening the potential stimulation by closing curtains in a room, or covering crates with thick blankets may help. Familiar sounds such as music from a stereo or turning on the TV are likely to be soothing.
Before storms come it is important to prepare a suitable room where the pet may be comfortable for the duration of the fireworks or thunderstorm. This room should be preferably centrally located away from the stimulus as much as possible and also closed off to prevent the pet from running around the house and injuring itself. The room should be kept cozy and familiar by placing familiar objects including clean bedding, familiar chew toys, balls, scratch pads, etc. I have found lavender candles very soothing for nervous pets as well.
Some pets will also dramatically respond to Thundershirts, which will sometimes amazingly calm very nervous pets. Approximately one hour before the storm or fireworks, pets can be placed in this quiet room with the above items. Be sure to leave adequate food and water for your pet in the confinement space. If possible, monitor your pet during the event or storm, and even stay with them in the room if you can. Allow the pet to hide somewhere in the room if desired.
There are many natural supplements that can help calm anxious pets including Quiet Moments, Be Serene and Rescue Remedy. I have also found the flower essences aspen and mimulus often helpful in many pets. Homeopet Anxiety drops is another excellent natural supplement that I have found sometimes useful. Finally, if absolutely necessary, low-dose prescription medications including acepromazine or xanax may be helpful in some cases.