Our rescue dog Cole (almost six now) is sensitive to fireworks, thunderstorms and loud noises. These situations used to cause him great stress. It was upsetting and stressful for us too, seeing him so fearful. With age and support, Cole calms down faster now. His initial response to loud noises remains heightened yet isn't as escalated as it once was. We've learned our newly adopted one year old stray cat Oliver is also very reactive to similar noises.
Today is Canada Day. It's a Wednesday. The fireworks started on Sunday night. I expect to hear fireworks most evenings this week. Though fireworks are a traditional way to celebrate, there's growing awareness that for many fireworks aren't cause for celebration. While beautiful, fireworks are an air pollutant, frighten wildlife and companion animals (more pets are lost during celebratory fireworks than any other time of year), and affect humans (with sensory issues and/ or anxiety, war veterans and others with post traumatic stress). It's time for change. Some countries are opting for silent fireworks.
Whether fireworks, thunderstorms or other loud noises such as cars and motorcycles backfiring, planes flying overhead, construction work in the neighbourhood, or lawnmowers and vacuums around the home, these sounds can terrify dogs and cats alike.
Here are some helpful tips you can try out with your animal family members.
A Ripple Effect
If you're stressed, your animal is stressed. As they say when you fly, "put your oxygen mask on first". Treat yourself, then treat your animal and everyone is supported.
One Size Doesn't Fit All
It's not uncommon that you'll need a combination of tips to support your animal. What works for your neighbour's animal might not work for your animal(s).
Rescue Remedy/ Pet Rescue Remedy
At the first sign of stress (hiding, panting, pacing, drooling) give your animal 4 drops. Wait five minutes. Keep repeating as needed. You can't overdose. I like to place the drops on my fingertips and rub them on the inside of Cole dog and Ollie cat's ears. Don't stick the dropper into their mouth (in case they bite and break it). Be sure to dose yourself too! Rescue Remedy also comes in a spray bottle. NEVER spray your animal (it'll spook them). The spray bottle is useful to spray their bed, bedding or crate. Pick up a bottle at natural health food store. What's the difference between Rescue Remedy and Pet Rescue Remedy? Rescue Remedy is preserved in alcohol (grape brandy). Pet Rescue Remedy is preserved in glycerin (vegetable oil). You can use either on yourself and your animal.
***NEVER use any Rescue Remedy products that contain xylitol with animals (which can be fatal for cats and dogs).***
Consider Additional Bach Flower Remedies
Fear of known things (noise, storms, fireworks)? Consider Mimulus. See trembling? Consider Aspen for fear of unknown things. Intolerant of noise? Consider Beech for intolerance. See The Bach Centre for more info.
During thunderstorms, some animals find relief from the electrical charge build-up by seeking out a bathtub, shower, or toilet. Skip the 'tip' of wiping down your animal with a dryer sheet (and you'll skip covering them in toxins too).
Use an Ionizer
Humans and animals are walking barometers! During a thunderstorm changes to the barometric pressure affect the ratio of positive and negative ions (causing headaches and achy joints for some). An ionizer can bring relief.
Ground Your Animal
There are various ways to ground your animal. Touch (or point at) each paw and their tail. Visualize drainpipes coming out from the bottom of their feet and tail going into the ground (or long tree roots) for 10 - 15 seconds each, to carry off excess energy from their body. You can also hold your hand above/ or on your animal's spine and ask the earth to support your animal.
These fitted jackets (available for dogs and cats) fit snugly offering pressure which makes some animals feel safer (think swaddling human babies). Available at pet stores or online.
Calming Signals (Dogs)
Dogs have about 30 calming signals (body language) they use with other dogs to signal they aren't a threat (humans can learn to recognize and mimic these signals). Offer your dog a deep relaxed sigh, lower your eyes, or turn your head to the side and they may just follow your lead. Don't coddle them as it reinforces their fear (they interpret your attention as worry).
Don't make a big fuss (like children, animals look to your response when something happens). Tell your animal(s) they're safe. Feel that safety and project it. Speak quietly and with reassurance.
Whether under a bed, in a closet or the bathtub, let your animal be where they feel the safest (please don't drag them out to comfort them).
May these tips bring you and your animal(s) relief. Please know this isn't an exhaustive list as more options are available.