Even though it's an annual occurrence, Fourth of July fireworks will scare the bejesus out of even the toughest dog.
Methods to calm an anxious pup include the ThunderShirt, a covered crate and melatonin. Now, there's one more.
The FDA recently approved a medication to help dogs relax during holiday commotion.
Sileo, the Washington Post said, is a gel medication you rub on a dog's gums to release dexmedetomidine, a drug that suppresses the effects of norepinephrine, the brain chemical that triggers the "fight or flight" response.
Doctors already use dexmedetomidine on humans, the post wrote. It's used to relax colonoscopy patients.
One European study compared owners' accounts of their dogs' reaction to the drug to those given a placebo. The control group rated the drug as 33 percent effective; the group given dexmedetomidine rated the drug as 74 percent effective, the post article said.
The only noted side effects were vomiting, which was reported in two out of 24 dogs used in a smaller dexmedetomidine study.
The drug must be prescribed my a veterinarian. In the meantime, here are some other suggestions (from PETA and the American Kennel Club) to soothing a stressed out doggie:
- Make your dog a "safe place" in a bathtub, closet or bedroom -- someplace shielded from the lights of fireworks.
- Some dogs revere their crates as safe places; cover your pup's crate with a blanket and consider moving it to a more shielded area, like a basement.
- Sit with them! Your dog will feel a little less scared if his big and brave owner isn't even flinching at the sight of fireworks. Light cuddles help, too.
- Go about your evening at home as usual. Turn on the TV and radio, the lights, talk and laugh.
- Does your dog have a wubbie (a cozy, comforting toy)? If not, give him something old and smelly to play or cuddle with. Something that really smells like you...gym socks you could afford to lose, maybe your (sweat-filled) workout headband. The AKC says that, grossly, your dog will feel better when he's smelling your smell.
- Make sure your dog has up-to-date tags and/or a microchip. Just in case they try to make a run for it.
- If your dog is being calm, be sure to reward him/her! Have treats on hand to help reinforce calmness.
- One tip from the AKC is to help your dog "warm up" to the loud noises. Find a YouTube video that has the sound of fireworks and play it lightly near your dog. The idea is that your pup will get used to the noise.
- If your dog comes to you for comfort, don't deny him! That would only confuse him, the AKC says. Don't ignore your furbaby if he wants snuggles to feel safe during scary fireworks.