Fireworks and Thunderstorm Season

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The ThunderShirt helps Dr. Rachel’s dog Marie with her storm anxiety (don’t let her expression fool you!)

           The 4th of July is almost upon us, which means there’s about to be a lot of fireworks being set off. Along with that and the thunderstorms that volatile summer weather can bring, this can make for a very stressful season if you have a pet with a noise phobia or storm anxiety.

            During these events your pet may exhibit signs like panting, pacing, whining or barking, trembling, having accidents in the house, hiding, attention seeking, or destroying items. To get your pet from a distressed emotional state to a neutral or even happy one during these events, here are a few things you can try:

  • Keep them indoors – loud noises can trigger your pet’s flight response and cause them to run off, keeping them inside during events reduces the likelihood of that happening. Additionally, make sure your pet has identification either in the form of a microchip or a collar with an ID tag in case they do run off.
  • Create a safe zone – this should be an area your pet can always access that they can go to feel safe. A bathroom or a closet with no windows (to limit the impact of flashes of light) may be a good choice. A crate may also work but don’t lock your pet in, as that may cause them to feel trapped, increasing their anxiety. Playing white noise or music will help to somewhat mask sound. Your pet may also benefit from wearing a ThunderShirt, which is a garment designed to make them feel more secure.  Pheromone plug-ins such as Adaptil or Feliway may help to further calm your pet, or you can give them an item of unwashed clothing as your scent may soothe them.
  • Don’t coddle them – coddling your pet may reinforce their fearful behavior. That said, you don’t need outright ignore them! If your pet is seeking attention from you, comfort them, but if your pet is hiding let them have their alone time. Your pet may feel safer even just being in the same room as you.
  • Distract them – do something fun with your pet! Work on training, play around, give them some treats or a favorite toy to distract them. If your pet doesn’t want to engage, don’t force it, but this can be a great way to refocus some of their nervous energy.
  • Keep yourself calm – how you’re acting will inform your pet how to act. If you stay calm it shows that the environment is not a threat, and your pet will know to be relaxed as well.
  • Tire them out – If you know ahead of time when an event is going to occur – such as 4th of July fireworks – try taking a long walk before the event starts. Activity will release endorphins as well as tire your pet out so they are less on edge once the event starts.
  • Consider medication – your pet may benefit from an anti-anxiety medication or a sedative, but always check with your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication. Feel free to call us here at My Zoo to discuss options for medicating your pet.
  • Don’t punish them – remember that the fear response is involuntary. If you punish your pet for acting out, it may curb the behavior but it won’t lower your pet’s anxiety. Punishment may increase your pet’s fear and lower their trust in you, making you less able to calm them in the future.

We hope that these tips help you and your pet, and that everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July! 

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April Showers Bring May Flowers

Spring is upon us! The sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming. Unfortunately, spring time brings more than beautiful flowers: loud storms, pollen, and ticks to name a few challenges! In this blog post, we’ll talk about loud storms and dogs in particular.

Loud Storms
Those strong storms can be quite scary for pets! What can you do to make your pets more comfortable? This is a very complex issue, but we have a few tips to help.
1. Don’t coddle. Dogs thrive on your attention. The best reward for most dogs is a loving pat from their owner. When you pet and love on your dog during a storm, you are rewarding him for a fearful/bad behavior. Instead train an alternative behavior that you can praise!
2. Train an alternative behavior. In Dr. Katie’s house, she trained her dogs to “get in your bed.” When she gives this command, her dogs go lay in their dog beds. During a storm she will move the bed where the dogs feel safe, give the command, and reward her dogs for calmly resting in their beds. This is an example of alternative behavior. Other behaviors to consider: sitting calmly at your feet, playing fetch, hide-and-go-seek, and etc.. But what if your dog refuses to be distracted? Providing a safe place to weather the storm can help.
3. Provide a safe place. One of Dr. Katie’s dogs will not allow distraction during a storm. Instead she prefers to lie on the bathroom floor. Since she is calm in there, Dr. Katie always makes sure the door is open during a storm. She also turns on the bathroom fan and a white noise machine to help with loud noises. We don’t recommend closing a pet in their “safe zone,” because frantic attempts to get out could result in injury. It’s ok to let your dog stay in his safe spot during a storm.
4. Over the counter anti-anxiety products. There are a number of over the counter products and supplements that can help. For example, some dogs do well with a “Thunder shirt.” Others respond to Dog Appeasing Pheromone products. Please call us to find out about other supplements that might work for your dog.
5. Prescription medications. Some dogs are just plain terrified and may need extra help addressing their fears. For these dogs, we can prescribe medications to help keep them calm during a storm. Every pet is different, so we will need to examine your pet and discuss your pet’s individual needs to choose an appropriate medication. It is important to understand that there is no medication that will cure your pet’s anxiety. Medications are tools that can only help in conjunction with active training and behavior modification.