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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Pet Talk: July 4th: Pets least favorite holiday

  • Fear of loud noises, fire works and thunder is a problem for pets. At the first flash, loud noise, boom or pop, your pet becomes a pitiful, drooling, trembling, pacing creature.
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  • Fear of loud noises, fire works and thunder is a problem for pets. At the first flash, loud noise, boom or pop, your pet becomes a pitiful, drooling, trembling, pacing creature. They try to claw their way onto your lap, join you in bed or hide under furniture. Some bury themselves under pillows, seek solace in bathtubs or hide in closets under piles of clothes. In extreme cases, frightened dogs have gone through screen doors, jumped fences, pulled out of collars or broken through windows in their fear and frenzy. In their panic, they sometimes run far away.
    In the animal world, fear is a normal response to scary, threatening situations or aversive stimuli and most animals can handle it. It can protect them from harm. Phobias are excessive, irrational reactions to these stimuli. Phobic dogs need their owner’s understanding and patience in helping them manage their qualms.
    Many fears can be alleviated by managing and changing their environment. Bring dogs indoors. Allow them access to their chosen “safe spot” or provide a den-like place where they can hide. An open, blanket covered crate in a dark, inner room is ideal to minimize the sound and visual stimuli of fireworks. Create “white” noise with a fan, air conditioner or radio. When fireworks shows are scheduled nearby, plan to stay home with your pet. Extremely phobic dogs may need medications prescribed by a veterinarian.
    Your pet will look to you for direction and will pick up clues from your behavior. A calm and upbeat, in-charge attitude reassures them. If you are worried or nervous, this will add to the pet's fear. Dog behaviorists suggest that overly coddling your pet sends the wrong message. Loving but matter of fact behavior is more appropriate. You want to avoid “rewarding” the animal for being fearful as this is teaching them to use this behavior to get more attention.
    Prior to anticipated fireworks, vigorous exercise and play will help to mentally and physically tire the animal so that they are less responsive to the stimuli. Another benefit of exercise is that it increases natural serotonin levels, which can have a sedative effect.
    When lost, Micro-chipped pets have a far greater chance of being returned to their families. A microchip is a small radio frequency transmitter that is injected under the skin by a veterinarian. It is about the size of a large grain of rice. Animal control officers and veterinarians routinely look for microchips by using a scanning device in order to identify and return lost pets to their owners. Microchips provide a surefire, permanent identification method. Collar ID tags are also useful in identifying your lost pet.
    Body wraps have been used on fearful dogs with a high success rate. Most dogs have some reduction of their fearful behavior and some are completely “cured” of their fears when wearing the garment. They are described as “giving the pet a hug”. Gentle pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system and has been a common practice for years. The effect is similar to that produced by swaddling an infant.  Tellington TTouch body wraps and Thunder Shirts are two of these products. Created by behavioral experts, these items can calm dogs in a manner similar to swaddling an infant.
    Page 2 of 2 - Other potential problems for your pet can arise from all the festivities associated with July 4. Ask guests to avoid feeding your dog foods that are not good for them. Keep alcohol out of your dog’s reach. Ingesting alcohol can cause gastric upset, coma and death. Burns from an open grill can happen in an instant. Matches, citronella candles, bug sprays, sunscreen, lighter fluid and Glo-Sticks are poisonous.
    Celebration of Independence Day is a great opportunity for family gatherings and enjoyment of all the festivities surrounding it. Pets can enjoy the day also as long as it is safe and rewarding for them. If you have a fearful or phobic pet, remember to allow for their needs. Keep them inside, have them wear proper identification or be micro chipped, stay with them, provide a safe hide out, drown out the noise and show calm behavior to reassure them. Happy fourth!
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