Many dogs are terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. There are ways to help without tranquilizers!
Create a "safe zone" for your dog. It can be a small room on the interior of the house , or area in the basement. Spend time with your pet in this safe zone before you need to use it so they can acclimate to it. Make the safe zone comfortable - have soft bedding, a crate (if your dog is used to being in the crate), food, water and toys. Close the windows, pull the shades and try to block out as much light as possible. Play some soothing music in the area, or leave the TV on in the room. Move your pet to the safe zone during storms or fireworks.
Thundershirts work well to calm anxious dogs. They calm the dog similarly to swaddling an infant. Thundershirts can be purchased on-line or at the pet store. Some dogs even wear their thundershirt to Vet appointments! You can apply Lavender or Peace and Calming Essential Oil to the thundershirt for additional calming effects. For more info on thundershirts check out www.Thundershirt.com.
Try to acclimate your dog to the scary noises from storms or fireworks by playing CD's of the noises softly for a short period of time. Gradually increase the length of the sounds and volume. Be sure to give your pet lots of praise, and treats! This process can take several months. CD's of the scary noises are available on the internet.
Zylkene is a nutraceutical with calming effects. It has bovine sourced hydrolyzed milk protein, which is calming to animals. Zylkene (www.Vetoquinolusa.com) should be started a few weeks prior to storm season, or fireworks time. It seems like folks start setting off fireworks weeks before the Fourth of July, and continue for a few weeks afterward!
Several essential oils work well for calming anxious pets. Young Living's Peace and Calming II, Stress Away, Lavender and Animal Scents T-Away are essential oil blends that work well. Some animals respond better to one oil than another, so trying different ones is helpful. You can diffuse the oil in the safe zone during the fireworks or storms. The oils can be applied to a bandanna or their nylon neck collar. For directions for safe application of essential oils in animals please see my previous blog on essential oil use in animals.
Herbal medications and Acupuncture can be used to treat phobias in animals. These both take several months to take effect, and must be started early. The type of herbal medication recommended is based on their Traditional Chinese medical diagnosis and varies from dog to dog.
Anti-anxiety medications such as Trazodone or Xanax can also be used in healthy dogs. It is always best to try other methods of calming your pet before resorting to anti-anxiety medications.
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