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Thunderstorms and Other Loud Noises

As many pet owners know, fireworks and thunderstorms can cause a great deal of stress for some animals. Commonly seen signs include:

    • shaking, trembling
    • excessive drooling
    • barking, howling
    • trying to hide or get into/out of the house, fence, or other enclosure
    • refusing to eat food
    • some animals may lose bladder or bowel control or experience diarrhea from prolonged stress

Please note: The signs mentioned above are general signs and could be indicative of many different diseases or conditions. Please consult with your veterinarian if these signs persist after fireworks or thunder has subsided, or if you suspect that your pet may have been poisoned or is otherwise ill.

Practice Safety

Keep pets indoors. It is advisable to close the curtains and turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction. A quiet place, such as a carrier, may provide your pet with a sense of security and comfort. Use a leash or carrier. If you must be outside with your pet, keep the pet on a leash or in a carrier at all times.

Practice fire safety. Keep pets away from matches, open fires, and fireworks—especially ones that are lighted on the ground. Pets may try to sniff (or eat) fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch fire if too close to the fireworks.

Take the pet for a walk first. If possible, make sure that you pet has time to “use the restroom” before the fireworks start. Some pets are too frightened to void once the fireworks begin, and this may lead to an “accident” later on.

Make sure pet’s ID is current. Make sure that your pet has proper identification tags, with current information, in case s/he gets away.

What can I do if my pet is frightened of fireworks and thunder?

Most animals do fine and don’t seem to notice the noises. Some do well with just having their owner near, talking in a soothing voice and petting or holding the pet. And then there are some pets that cannot be calmed by petting or talking to them—they are simply too upset. Animals that are frightened/stressed can hurt themselves and possibly escape if left alone.

For these animals, it is best to provide a safe place, such as a carrier or kennel, to be in while the fireworks last. This alone may be enough of a comfort to soothe some pets. There are animal trainers and behaviorists who can help work with pets to reduce their fear and anxieties. For some, medication (in the form of a tranquilizer) may be warranted. Tranquilizers are not for every pet. Some pet owners have found that herbal remedies, such as Rescue Remedy® help calm their pets. Talk to your vet about training or medical options that are suitable for your dog or cat. A patient-doctor relationship is needed before dispensing medications, so if your pet hasn’t seen the vet yet, an appointment will need to be made to examine the animal to ensure that there aren’t any underlying heart or other problems and to base any medications on current weight.

Using Behavior Modification

To help your pet become accustomed to thunder and other loud noises, you can try some behavior modification. One technique involves playing a recording of thunder at very low levels. Reward your pet if it remains calm. Gradually increase the volume slowly over time, as your pet is able to handle the sounds without getting stressed. This technique does require time and patience for it to be effective. It does not recreate the barometric changes that accompany storms and there is some evidence that air pressure change can signal the storms approach to pets before we are even aware of it. If that is the case for your pet, professional help likely will be necessary. Rewarding the pet for remaining calm is important. Be careful not to overdo praising; as you may inadvertently reinforce their anxiety.