Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!
Q: My dachshund Stanley has always been deathly afraid of fireworks. As soon as the booming begins, he runs and hides under the bed. With 4th of July around the corner, what is the best was to keep my dog anxiety-free?
A: Short of moving to Canada, the best you can do it limit poor Stanley’s exposure and provide him with some comfort. I live in the Mission which is incredibly bombastic on the 4th and my dog Huri is extremely stressed by the explosions. Ok, I get a bit stressed too and we have to vie for who gets under the bed. This year we are heading for the hills where we hope there will be less fireworks but I’m still taking precautions. Huri is microchipped and will be wearing her collar and ID. I’ll also keep her on leash and next to me in case she freaks out and has the urge to run and flee.
Here are some suggestions for helping to make this holiday bearable for Stanley:
If you can’t avoid the fireworks, the next option is to keep your dog where he feels the safest—which is inside. Close all your doors and windows, draw your curtains and stay home with your pup. Be sure Stanley is wearing his collar with an ID just in case he panics and bolts through a door or window.
If Stanley prefers being under the bed I wouldn’t try to pull him out...instead put some pillows down next to bed and settle into a good book or quiet romantic comedy type of video (nothing with gun shots or bombs) or soothing music. There are a variety of products that may also help decrease anxiety such as DAP collars, Calming Caps and body wraps. In addition, using a head halter such as Gentle Leader for easier control and keeping Stanley focused on something positive like food can also help distract him from his fear.
Some dogs become panicky and will hurt themselves trying to chew or run away when they hear fireworks. For these dogs, heavy sedation or anti-anxiety medication and safe confinement is needed- it might seem excessive, but a really freaked animal could do himself harm. If you think your dog needs medication see your veterinarian as soon as possible as blood work or a physical may be required before prescribing medication.
Good luck and Happy 4th of July!
While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat. If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.