Summertime is an exciting time of year, with the warmer weather bringing back many annual adventures involving traveling, camping, fireworks, and thunderstorms. Although these things can be exciting for family, for our furry friends these events can also bring along unwanted anxiety.
Many pets become anxious from loud noises due to things like fireworks, thunderstorms, and gunshots. For others, stress may result from car travel and going to both new and familiar places where they will meet many people and other animals.
Anxious pets are often also fearful, scared, and in some cases can be aggressive. This results in them showing new behaviours that they don’t generally show in a normal home setting. Pets display anxiety in several ways, including but not limited to: shaking, trembling, hiding, running away, destroying things at home, barking and drooling.
How can you help your anxious pet? Sometimes, being there to comfort your dog or cat is all they need to make them feel better about whatever is causing the stress. Letting them access somewhere they feel safe can also help. This safe place may be their kennel, or other place in the house with limited windows where the noise and other stimuli can be dampened the most.
If you know your pet has a noise phobia, leaving them at home away from the predictable anxious stimulus may be best. If your pet cannot avoid the noise, having light noise from an air conditioner, stereo, or other source can help minimize the loudness and stress associated with the louder unpredictable source.
Speaking to someone with behaviour training can be encouraging, as there may be new tips and tricks that can be calming and limit anxious behaviors. In some cases it is possible to desensitize pets to certain anxious stimuli.
Some medications, both natural and prescription can also be helpful, and are most useful when used in combination with other approaches. For some pets, starting the natural medication a few days before a known anxious event can help prepare your pet for the event. If none of the natural medications seem to be working, talking to your veterinarian about other prescription options may be beneficial for your pet.
Remember, many exciting events for us like thunderstorms and fireworks can be some of the most anxious times for our pets. Over time, some pets will get over their fears if the right approach is taken, while others will continue to struggle their entire lives if they continue to be exposed to the stimuli that cause anxiety. It may take many different approaches and trials to know what is best for your pet, and speaking to your veterinarian can help get you on track with how and where to start.
Dr. Corinna Jensen was born and raised in the Fort St. John Community and discovered her passion for veterinary medicine at an early age. In June 2015 she completed her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from The Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She is excited and enthusiastic about joining the veterinary team as a mixed animal practitioner with special interests in beef cattle and small animal medicine and surgery.