Summertime!! Festivals, fairs, backyard barbecues, and, of course, our annual celebration of the founding of our amazing country. July 4th is a favorite holiday for a wide variety of reasons, but I suspect that it's truly about coming together as a community. Unfortunately, our celebrations might have a negative impact on your furry friends or even your larger friends, like horses and cattle! While exact numbers are not known, we hear stories every year about pets, especially dogs, who are lost, injured, or are just plain frightened during the ongoing nightly celebrations. What we do know is July 5th is the BUSIEST day of the year for animal shelters across the country as they deal with lost dogs, cats or even livestock. So, how can we keep our pets calm and safe while we enjoy the festivities?
First. when you are heading out to watch some fireworks, make sure your pets are safely INSIDE your house. Keeping them outside, even on a reasonably cool summer night, is a recipe for coming home to an empty backyard. Many pets are injured as they attempt escape, impaling themselves on fences or scraping up limbs and back going under barricades. Why not set up a nice, cozy, interior room with a radio or TV and the pet's favorite toys and his/her crate? Cover the crate with a blanket as an added layer to disperse the loud noises.
Next, PLEASE, if you don't know how your pet will react, don't take them to outdoor fireworks displays. While your pet may seem calm and unlikely to react in many situations, the sheer number of people coupled with the booming sounds and bright lights can be too much for many pets. Not only is escape a possibility, if your pet can't get away, he or she may turn to snapping or biting out of fear. Is it really worth the risk?
Talk with your veterinarian about items, supplements, or medications designed to keep your pet calm at this time of year. Over the counter options, like Thundershirts, have been invaluable to many pet owners, even during thunderstorms or other loud events. Newer supplements, like Vetri-Science's Composure Pro, are popular with pet owners looking to provide a more "natural" means to keep their pets calm. Other brands include Vetoquinol's Zylkene and Purina's new probiotic, Calming Care. You can even find pet foods designed with minimizing stress levels in mind! Even though many of these items are "over the counter" and don't need veterinary prescriptions, take a moment and talk with your pet's doctor and get their thoughts!
Prescription products are available as well. Xanax (alprazolam) and Trazodone are two commonly prescribed medications to help combat anxiety and stress in pets. Even Gabapentin has its place with our feline friends. These drugs, though, are controlled, or close to controlled, substances. Your veterinarian may not keep much on hand, for safety reasons, or they may opt to send you to a human pharmacy for these options. There is a great product called Sileo, a transmucosal oral gel, that you can rub on your pet's gums and get out 1.5 to 2 hours of calming action. The best thing about this product is that it works when the pet is ALREADY anxious or stressed, whereas other medications may not be as effective if the pet is previously worked up.