Fourth of July Fireworks and Parasite Preparation
By Dr. Bruce Little
As the summer heat begins to intensify across much of America, it is always good to be reminded of events and realities that can make our four-legged family members, our pets, more comfortable and protected against disease or complications. It is 113⁰ F. today in the Southwest desert areas of the United States, and although that may not be the case where you live, conditions and circumstances abound at most places indicating trouble for your pet if precautions are not put into place prior to the events occurring. Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, is rapidly approaching. The 4th of July parades, picnics in the park, family trips to the lake for picnicking and fishing and especially the fireworks can cause discomfort and anxiety for our pets. It is best to plan for the pet’s comfort in advance to keep them free of anxiety or accidents due to the celebrations of the holiday.
Although many dogs don’t seem to be bothered by the sounds and sights of fireworks, others become terrified during this annual celebration. These frightened dogs will show signs of anxiety at the first sound of the explosions of fireworks as well as the flash that is associated with them. For those dogs that express mild distress during the traditional fireworks on this holiday, you may be able to control their fear satisfactorily by closing them in a basement or otherwise dark room. Close the blinds and play music on the radio or stereo and this might be enough to cover the noise and flash that makes them exhibit their distress. If you live close to the annual fireworks display in your town, this method might not be enough to cover the sounds and sights of this event and you may have to resort to stronger methods to relieve them of their fear. It is always better to begin your protective measures prior to any holiday celebrations because once anxiety has set in, various methods or remedial measures will likely not be as effective.
There are several products that can be purchased at pet stores that may help your dog overcome his anxiety during fireworks. There is a product called a Thundershirt that is placed on the dog’s body that acts to create the presence of acupressure that is said to help some dogs. A hood that fits over the dog’s head called a Calming Cap is recommended by some behavioral experts who report the cap will lessen the anxiety seen in some dogs. There are various calming sprays and hormone solutions, one product named Feliway, that may lessen the fear in these situations. All these products are available at pet stores across the country.
We must remember that dogs hear greater than humans by amplifying sounds many times more decibels than what humans hear. Therefore, using cotton plugs or ear plugs of any sort in dogs to lessen the effect of noises may have limited impact. Perhaps the best process for dealing with fear of fireworks is to work with the dog in advance of the holiday to help him become accustomed to and tolerant of fireworks displays. A very good source for a training guide can be found free of charge at British Animal Behavior Counselor, Karen Wild, at www.dogsandfireworks.com. You can download a free training guide and an MP3 recording of the sounds and sights of a fireworks display. If successful in changing the behavior of your dog, you will no longer have to concern yourself with preparing for fireworks displays and activities around this holiday. Good luck if you try this method.
The above tips may or may not help your dog in your particular circumstances. If that is the case, consult your veterinarian about the use of anti-anxiety drugs that are available for use in cases of fear of fireworks or other loud noises and flashes of light such as lightning and thunder. There are a variety of drugs that are tailored to fit certain degrees of anxiety including tranquillizers and herbal medicines. Zoetis Animal Health has recently began distributing a new oral gel product named Sileo (dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel) that may help your dog overcome fear and anxiety from fireworks of all kinds, including the large municipal displays and the noises of the neighborhood firecrackers and sparklers that people use. The drugs need to be compatible with the conditions your dog exhibits. Your veterinarian will know how to determine which drug is most likely to be successful and will recommend the appropriate product.
It is never a good idea to leave your dog at home by himself during fireworks activities. If fear overtakes them, they are subject to go to great lengths to escape the cause of their fear. More dogs are lost during the Fourth of July activities than any other time of the year. They might dig under a fence, breach the electronic fence, jump over the fence or dart through an open door to escape. They might chew through the wall to escape a room that gives them access to an exit from the house or other enclosure in which they have been placed. Be sure your dog is protected with an electronic microchip so if he does go missing, he can be returned to his owner upon rescue. In general terms, cats do not seem to have as many issues with fireworks and thunderstorms as dogs. Some do become frightened; however, many cats will simply find a place to hide such as under the bed or behind the couch or some other safe haven to sit out the intrusion. The best thing to do is leave them there until the fireworks or thunderstorms pass.
Equally important to your pet’s needs regarding fireworks is the need to protect them from external parasites during the summer holiday season. Trips to the dog park, the fishing trip to the lake in the woods or the summer cottage on the beach should include a strategy for external parasite control and prevention. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), the leading source on parasitic diseases that threaten the health of pets and people, has released its annual parasite forecasts. The predictions for 2016 show increased incidence of fleas, ticks and mosquitos, and the threat of vector-borne disease agents transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes will continue to spread creating a year-round menace to both pets and their owners. ACPC is an independent not-for-profit foundation comprised of parasitologists, veterinarians, medical personnel, public health and other professionals that provides information for the optimal control of parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. Formed in 2002, the CAPC works to help veterinary professionals and pet owners develop the best practices in parasite management that protect pets from parasitic infections and reduce the risk of zoonotic disease such as Lyme disease transmission. Talk to your veterinarian about the potential for zoonotic disease in your area due to contact with ticks, mosquitos, fleas and other insects that live in the wooded habitats that surrounds your home. Preventative medications and preparation is much cheaper and a better alternative for your pet than attempting to treat the condition once it has overtaken your pet and home environment.
Have a fun, safe and exciting summer with all of your family, and that includes the family pets.