If you’ve witnessed your furry friend becoming withdrawn and trying to hide, shaking physically, obsessively licking or chewing themselves, you likely have a pet suffering stress from what we veterinarians call ‘noise phobia’ in pets.
Most holidays can provide a certain level of stress for our pets due to changes in routine, visits by strangers to them, and increased noise. The most profoundly stressful to pets, dogs in particular, is our country’s firecracker-infused and explosively noisy Fourth of July holiday.
First, it is important to know that dogs are unable to rationally understand loud noises such as a sudden “boom” as they have no context for this holiday as we humans do. Any loud and abrupt sounds are alarming to most dogs and fireworks are especially stressful and disturbing auditory disruptions. It is best to keep your pets indoors the week of Fourth of July and a few days after as people often shoot off fireworks more than just on the holiday. Other holidays, like Labor Day weekend, can be loud and stressful, but nothing like the acoustic magnitude of Fourth of July.
Over time, our pets endure ongoing stressors, and this can translate to a bona fide phobia of loud and booming noises. If you have a pet who retreats and acts differently when thunder is rumbling and lightning is striking, then you likely are a pet parent to a pet with noise phobia in numerous situations.
I can tell you in my mission to help pets of homeless populations, I’ve witnessed firsthand the negative impacts of dogs exposed to street noise with little respite or way to retreat from it. I recall meeting a gentleman living in a back alley and he slept just ten feet from where the garbage truck would come to remove trash from a large dumpster once per week. He shared that his dog would have a notable reaction to the garbage truck noise, and it worsened each week. This is a classic example of noise phobia. Dogs can become sensitized to any sound, and, of course, fireworks are one of the worst and most common offenders.
As a licensed veterinarian, I must advise how important it is that you not take your pet’s symptoms for granted. If you see any level of symptoms of noise phobia and/or anxiety due to noise pollution they’ve experienced, you really should that take your pet to see a veterinarian. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may give tips or prescribe medications or other natural remedies.
Here are my tips for providing care to your pets during the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations:
- Keep your pet at home during the week of Fourth of July and away from nearby fireworks.
- Allow them to be in a familiar place that represents comfort and safety.
- Be near them and pet them. Talk to them to let them know they are going to be all right. This is most reassuring to your dog.
- Create a safe space for them; preferably an area inside that is familiar and comfortable.
- Turn on white noise, whether it is music, an oscillating fan or air conditioner, the radio or TV. This is especially important if you have them at home and you are out of the house.
- Speak to your veterinarian about hemp-extract CBD pet formulated to decrease anxiety and support overall wellness. Charlotte’s Web has a full spectrum Hemp-Extract for adult dogs with 17 mg per serving and a new, easy-to-use dropper. A new treat that helps support calming is Charlotte’s Web Charlotte’s Web™ Pet Calming Chews which have full spectrum hemp extract (2.5mg CBD per chew) in an easy to administer chicken flavor.
It is unwise to ignore stress and anxiety in our pets. Prolonged stress – in both dogs and humans – can lead to worsening health and have long-term negative effects. While lighting off that Roman Candle in your backyard is a family tradition or going to a community event filled with pyrotechnics in the sky can be thrilling, both can have serious effects on your pet’s overall sense of security as well as on their health. If your pet has any sensitivity to the sound of fireworks, then I recommend you consider a quiet Fourth of July.
ABOUT DR. KWANE STEWART:
A graduate of the renowned Colorado State University Veterinary program, Dr. Stewart has been a practicing vet for 22 years throughout California. Dr. Stewart has been sought out for his expertise by companies like Disney, United Airlines and SeaWorld for guidance on how to improve their animal care standards. He is a well-known media personality for animal safety and advocacy issues, having appeared on CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, The Today Show and CBS News. An online reality TV series, “The Street Vet,” chronicles his pro bono veterinary services to homeless pets and their owners.
His journey started in 1997 as an associate and emergency clinician in San Diego. From there he became the Chief Medical Officer of Vetco Hospitals, Inc. Next, he ran a struggling municipal shelter as County Veterinarian and reversed one of the worst euthanasia rates in the country. Most recently, he completed a six-year stint as the Chief Veterinary Officer of American Humane and as Director of their legacy program, No Animals Were Harmed®, protecting over 100,000 animals annually on film and TV sets around the world. Last year, Dr. Stewart created a GoFundMe page that has raised over $100,000 to treat homeless pets needing dental extractions, tumor removal, ear infections, flea removal, vaccines, spaying and neutering and more serious surgeries. Inspired by his efforts, the fundraising site named him their GoFundMe Hero for the month of February 2020. Dr. Stewart’s new nonprofit to take his mission to a national level is Project Street Vet. In June 2020, The Street Vet became Pet Care Ambassador for Charlotte’s Web, the leading hemp-derived CBD brand in the U.S.
Editor’s Note: All information provided herein is the opinion of Dr. Kwane Stewart, and not intended to imply endorsement by GLF or its editorial team. This is an unpaid submission and GLF is grateful to Dr. Stewart for offering his expertise and for his longtime commitment to animal advocacy.