Easing pets anxiety

Saturday, June 29, 2024
A frightened dog cowers in its doghouse as its family shoots fireworks and plays with sparklers in the backyard. Many dogs are afraid of fireworks and experience great stress on the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, and other holidays.

g sounds and flashing colors of fireworks. Many enjoy the warm-weather festivity, but fireworks can be hazardous and overwhelming for pets.

Dr. John Shepherd, veterinarian and owner of Four Loving Paws, says the first step of identifying and addressing stress or anxiety issues is to speak with your veterinarian.

“Not every situation, behavior management steps, or additional treatments are the same,” said Dr. Shepherd.


Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom.


Steps in reducing anxiety, prior to the event(s), include both behavior modification (more important) and supplements or medications as needed. Waiting until the day or hour prior to an event is too late! Some pets have places they can go which are their “safe space”, often times a kennel can help. Keep them inside. Fearful pets may run away or get hit by a vehicle if they panic and bolt. Pets are not good firework companions, they do not benefit from participating in those events!


Talk to your veterinarian prior to the event. Often we can console with positive reinforcing activities, use the previously identified behavior modifying techniques, maintaining calm in their quiet places, but sometimes, the supplements or medications we use, can be continued after the event is over. If a pet is traumatically affected after the event is over, they may benefit from being in a different environment far away from the fireworks or stress stimulus. 


Firework “season” may last a lot longer than the 4th, sometimes a week or two prior and a few weeks after. The best benefit of utilizing your veterinarian is to support through the entire season and not just the 4th. Fears and phobias can come from a variety of sources, thinking about thunderstorms, and teamwork with your veterinarian can tailor the best management plan specific to your pet’s needs.

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