Today, the Fourth of July, is a favorite holiday for many humans. Unfortunately, it can be a very bad day for dogs. A huge amount of dogs are afraid of fireworks, and I will address things you can do for those dogs here, but there are concerns for the dogs that are OK with loud noises too.
Dogs that have anxiety and fear surrounding fireworks are often the same dogs that struggle with thunderstorms, but not always. Many of the same techniques used for thunderstorms work well for fireworks. I recommend a Thundershirt and a natural anti-anxiety drug, like Melatonin. If your dog’s anxiety is really severe your vet might prescribe a one-time medication for the fourth. A benzodiazepine or buspirone class drug is best, and though many vets still prescribe Acepromazine (a common sedative known as “Ace”) for these times, that drug is NEVER appropriate as a treatment for anxiety or fear. If your vet is only comfortable giving you Ace, say no thank you and go see someone else. In addition to the Thundershirt and whatever drug you choose, it is best if you can give your dog a quiet and calm place to hang out. Set him up with a comfy bed, a raw bone to chew, some music playing (something soft like classical or string music, but loud enough to drown out some of the noise) in the quietest room of the house. If you have a basement area that your dog is comfortable in, that’s usually best. A lot of dogs feel more comfortable with confinement, some dogs less so. Use a crate or ex-pen if it makes your dog feel better, leave him loose (if he is in a safe space where he can’t hurt himself) if that’s what he prefers.
What about the dogs that aren’t bothered by fireworks? The same general holiday rules for dogs apply here, and if you haven’t done so you should read my blog about advocating for dogs during these times. In short, it’s probably best for all dogs, even if they aren’t afraid of fireworks, to be left at home in a quiet space that’s set up just for them. Just because your dog is allowed at an event (most events for this summer holiday are outdoors, and so often welcome dogs) doesn’t mean your dog should go to that event. Seeing dogs at parks where there are bands playing, huge crowds, and fireworks shows makes anyone who understands dogs cringe. You can just see the stress building on their little faces. Even if a dog is not afraid of loud noises, no dog enjoys them.
As for my dogs, one is severely afraid of fireworks and one couldn’t care less. Kelso (the fearful one) will be Thundershirted and dosed with Melatonin, given a delicious chew bone, and will be allowed to hide under a desk, where he feels safest. Idgie, who isn’t afraid of fireworks, will not be attending any events. She will also be given something to chew, and will be kept separate from Kelso because she is still young and impressionable. It is not uncommon for dogs that are not afraid of loud noises to become sound sensitive if they are exposed to an older dog that has noise-related panic attacks.
Take care of your dogs, and happy Fourth of July!