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Fur Baby Afraid of Fireworks?

Many of us have gone through it at least once with our pup, or if you're a new pet parent, this may be a new adventure for you - fireworks.

About 40 percent of dogs suffer from "noise anxiety". Noise anxiety can be likened to a phobia or even, for some, a panic disorder. Dogs suffering from this anxiety are unable to settle back down for some time after hearing the loud noise (i.e. fireworks!)

What is physically happening when a dog reacts strongly to thunder, fireworks, or other loud noises?

Dr. Melissa Bain, an associate professor of clinical animal behavior at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, dogs may experience a flight response. Like humans, dogs have a hypothalamus that produces hormones, that in response to a startling trigger, will tell the body to release stress hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) to help the body deal with the perceived threat. These stress hormones can cause physical reactions (when released in humans or our pets) like increased heart rate and blood pressure, tense muscles, and dilated pupils. Sound familiar?

Sadly, (as many of us have experienced) our pup will impulse to "take flight" and will try to run away from the threat. For many animals shelters, July 5th is their busiest day of the year for taking in lost dogs 😢

How do veterinarians and behavior specialists recommend caring for frightened dogs this Fourth of July?

One ongoing debate between veterinary care and dog behavioral professionals is whether owners should comfort their animals when they are distraught with "noise anxiety", such as snuggling the dog and staying with them, or if the owners should act normal and unruffled to show that the environment is not threatened. While taking either side of this debate, it may be a helpful tool to try to muffle the noise with quiet music.

Some vets will prescribe sedatives, although these do not treat the underlying phobia, and could actually make the dog feel worse because they may feel they are too sedated run from the danger.

However, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug specifically created for canine noise aversion. Sileo works by inhibiting norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter, and hormone associated with fear.

What's the best advice? In my opinion, catching the phobia early or before it even happens, gives you an opportunity to desensitize the dog by paring the offending noise (or recordings of it) with positive reinforcements.

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