Managing Pet Anxiety: Exploring Natural and Prescription Options
July 4th is coming. Now is the time to prepare for your pet's anxiety issues and anticipate how you will create a calming environment for your dog and cat before the fireworks begin.
It's so important to prepare as so many pets escape on July 4th it is the busiest day of the year at many animal shelters.
Whether it's due to fireworks, separation anxiety, thunderstorms, or other triggers, finding effective ways to alleviate your pet's anxiety is a top priority. In this blog post, we will delve into various options for managing pet anxiety, ranging from natural remedies to prescription medications, along with classical counter-conditioning techniques and the importance of creating a safe space.
Being ready for fireworks anxiety is key
If your dog or cat has severe anxiety, you should discuss having a prescription on hand well before the scary event. Pets that tend to be afraid of thunder and lightning, wind storms, leaf blowers, vacuums, or even hair dryers will likely have a problem with the unpredictable nature of fireworks going off in the neighborhood. With veterinary appointments sparse these days you'll want to be sure to plan well in advance.
Clinical Signs of Dog and Cat Anxiety and Fear
Clinical symptoms pet owners can be aware of can be different in dog anxiety vs. the subtle signs that cats may show.
What are the signs of anxiety in dogs?
Signs of anxiety include pacing, hiding, trembling, lip licking, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), and trying to escape. Escape attempts include hiding behind furniture, in bathrooms, or closets. The sounds are unpredictable so this can confuse many pets enough that they will try to escape through a window to go outside or if they are outside they may frantically try to break inside.
What are the signs of anxiety of cats?
Cats often show more subtle signs including the ones above. Since they tend to hide under the bed or behind furniture, and are not destructive as dogs many pet owners assume they are fine unless they are vocalizing and exhibiting signs of panic, which is rare. Don't assume your cat is not afraid too.
What to do before July 4th
Have your supplements and prescriptions on hand. If you rely on supplements only, make sure you test them out before July 4th to see if they have any effect.
Tips for what to do well before the fireworks
Weeks to months before fireworks season is the time to check in with your veterinarian regarding medication for your pets and fireworks. Having them on hand does not mean you are going to use them. Sometimes natural remedies are not enough and can leave your pet in a potentially fearful and traumatic situation.
You should test the medication for pets that are known to be scared of fireworks before New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July.
Tips for what to do on the day of fireworks displays
Never leave a fearful pet alone with fireworks. Dogs can be very destructive and can even break through plate glass windows if they are
Tire your dog out with exercise or play on the day of the fireworks. Have their favorite toys on hand.
Introduce your pet to a safe place in the house where you can play music and have their favorite toys and treats available to distract them. Take them to that spot frequently to play and give them treats to teach them that it is a safe and fun place to be.
If you and your veterinarian decide that your pet needs a prescription, make sure you give it at the prescribed time so that it is on board for anxious moments. Waiting until the fireworks start is too late and will likely not reduce anxiety as intended.
Work with a trainer for anxious pets and learn about a training method known as Classical Counter Conditioning.
Tips for what to do when the fireworks begin
Do everything you can to mitigate the sound of fireworks. Play music and close any windows or doors to decrease the impact of loud noises.
Close your doggy door so your anxious dog is caught outside with an unanticipated fireworks explosion that could cause it to panic and try to leave by jumping a fence.
Try not to remain calm as possible. Exhibit calm behavior and engage your pet with play. Grab their favorite toys and try to engage them.
Natural options for anxious dogs and cats
- Solliquin (dogs and cats): Solliquin is a natural supplement formulated to promote relaxation in dogs and cats. It combines several ingredients, including L-theanine, Magnolia officinalis, and Phellodendron amurense. L-theanine helps increase the brain's production of alpha waves, inducing a sense of calmness without sedation. Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense have anxiolytic properties, reducing anxiety levels in pets.
- Zylkene: Zylkene is another natural option that aids in managing pet anxiety. It contains a bioactive peptide derived from milk proteins called alpha-casozepine. This peptide helps promote relaxation and reduce stress-related behaviors in dogs and cats.
- Composure: Composure chews and treats are made with calming ingredients such as colostrum, L-theanine, and thiamine. These components work synergistically to support balanced behavior and alleviate anxiety in pets.
- Feliway: Feliway is a feline-specific pheromone product that mimics the natural facial pheromones of cats. It creates a sense of familiarity and security, reducing stress-related behaviors like marking, scratching, and hiding.
- Adaptil: Adaptil is a canine-specific pheromone product designed to help dogs cope with anxiety and stress. It replicates the pheromone released by mother dogs to comfort and reassure their puppies. Adaptil comes in diffusers, sprays, and collars, offering various options to suit your dog's needs.
- Anxitane: Anxitane is a chewable tablet containing L-theanine, which helps promote relaxation in dogs and cats. It works by increasing the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits anxiety signals in the brain.
- Thunder Shirts can be worn by both dogs and cats. Wearing one is similar to swaddling a baby and may calm dogs and cats that are anxious during fireworks. They offer discounts around July 4th and the educational video on their website states that they have a money-back guarantee.
What about CBD for fireworks shows or anxiety?
Although CBD might be helpful for mild fear, it's usually not enough to calm a pet that is moderately fearful or panics around fireworks. It's just not enough.
Anxiety Medications for Dogs
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are prescription medications commonly used to treat anxiety disorders in pets. Medications like diazepam and alprazolam work by enhancing the effects of GABA, reducing anxiety, and promoting relaxation. It is crucial to consult a veterinarian before considering these options, as they may have side effects and require careful dosage management.
- Sileo: Sileo is a prescription medication specifically formulated to address noise phobias in dogs, such as fear of thunderstorms or fireworks. It contains the active ingredient dexmedetomidine, which acts on alpha-2 adrenoceptors to reduce fear and anxiety without inducing sedation.
Help Your Pet Reduce Stress With Classical Counter Conditioning:
Classical counter-conditioning is a behavior modification technique used to change an animal's emotional response to a specific stimulus. By pairing the feared stimulus with something positive, such as treats or playtime, the pet learns to associate the trigger with positive experiences, gradually reducing anxiety. This technique requires consistency, patience, and gradual exposure to the trigger.
Creating a Safe Space:
Creating a safe space is crucial for pets dealing with anxiety. This designated area provides a retreat where they can feel secure and relaxed. Consider the following steps when creating a safe space for your pet:
- Choose a quiet location away from noise and commotion.
- Provide comfortable bedding and familiar items with your pet's scent.
- Use calming pheromone products like Feliway or Adaptil in the designated area.
- Play soothing music or use white noise to mask stressful sounds.
- Offer engaging toys and interactive puzzles to keep their minds occupied.
Dealing with pet anxiety requires a multi-faceted approach tailored to the specific needs of your furry friend. Natural options like Solliquin, Zylkene, Composure, Feliway, Adaptil, and Anxitane can provide relief without the need for prescription medications. However, in severe cases, prescription options like benzodiazepines and Sileo may be necessary under the guidance of a veterinarian. Classical counter-conditioning and the creation of a safe space further aid in alleviating anxiety and providing a sense of security for your pet. Remember, each pet is unique, so it's essential to consult with a veterinary professional to determine the most suitable approach for your beloved companion. With patience, understanding, and the right tools, we can help our pets lead happier, anxiety-free lives.