My Dog has No Fears on the Fourth—or will she?

For the first time in well over a decade, I don’t own a dog who is afraid of fireworks. Buffy, my 9-year-old cocker spaniel, did not follow in the footsteps of my other dogs, whose worst nightmare was the Fourth of July. Buffy is now an only dog after we lost Chipper in November.

Dogs may develop noise anxiety as they age

I can almost pinpoint the date when Cassie developed thunderstorm anxiety. One August, a thunderclap jolted me awake. It was so loud—right over our house. That did it for her. She hated thunderstorms and fireworks after that. She would shake even at the little poppers that kids throw on the ground to make noise.

Photo credit: Pixabay

I’m not sure when Chipper developed his anxiety of loud noises, but I know he was the first dog my mom ever had that had this anxiety—or at least to an extreme.

Others have noticed that senior dogs may develop more anxiety than they used to have. https://www.seniortailwaggers.com/old-dog-anxiety/

Chipper was the instigator in getting me to try anti-anxiety medications. When Chipper was my mom’s dog, he drove her nuts with his fear of loud noises. My mom lived in a very enthusiastic neighborhood blowing off firecrackers for weeks before and after the Fourth.

Chipper hid, usually in the house, often under Mom’s bed, or behind chairs. At the age of 85, Mom couldn’t crawl under things to drag Chipper out of his hiding spots. She worried about him peeing in the house. The more she yelled at him, the farther away he cowered. Mom asked her caretaker to stay late several nights and to work on the Fourth to help her deal with Chipper’s anxiety. This cost my mom about $500 in overtime fees.

At the same time, I owned Cassie, a springer spaniel. When Cassie was young, I actually took her to fireworks displays. She trembled, and I petted her to try to calm her—something the experts say not to do since this only reinforces the behavior. I should have left her at home.

Cassie often got restless for up to an hour before an actual thunderstorm—pacing, panting, sometimes walking all over me and my husband on our bed. She kept me awake for hours—still, I put up with her antics.

Solutions tried for Thunderstorm / Fireworks Anxiety

  • Thundershirt

    Cassie in her thundershirt

This anti-anxiety wrap was my first try at controlling Cassie’s thunderstorm anxiety. The problem was that most thunderstorms happen when it is warm and so we have the window open. During her anxiety attacks, Cassie panted heavily. She didn’t stop when I had the Thundershirt on her. Since it is a cloth wrap, it seemed to make her warmer—so I took it off her. I tried it a few times, and every time she continued to pant. I ended up using the Thundershirt as a winter jacket when arthritis stiffened Cassie’s joints so she couldn’t bend her legs enough to get into a sweater. Read more about Cassie and her Thundershirt.

  • Sollequin
Chipper with his anti-anxiety drugs

On July 5, 2013, I visited my vet and said I needed help with Chipper and Cassie’s anxiety. She gave me Sollequin for both dogs. Sollequin isn’t a narcotic but a mixture of

L-theanine found in green tea, magnolia, Phellodendron, and whey protein concentrate. The main drawback was that it takes up to two weeks to be fully effective, so it works best if the dog stays on this supplement for the entire thunderstorm season.

I used this drug for the next five years during the summer months. Sollequin calmed both dogs, but not entirely. During the worst part of a thunderstorm or loudest part of the fireworks, both dogs were a bit restless, but nowhere near as bad as before.

I could handle an hour of restlessness—much better than episodes lasting six or more hours! Here’s more about my experience with Harmonease, which is no longer available, so my vet switched Chipper to Sollequin.

  • Treatibles

I learned about Treatibles at the 2017 BlogPaws conference. These CBD-infused dog treats have non-psychoactive cannabinoids that occur in hemp. CBD decreases pain, helps with arthritis, and reduces the number of seizures caused by epilepsy. Treatibles help with anxiety.

Dog getting a Treatibles biscuit
Buffy getting a Treatible

Many a night, I woke to the sound of Chipper pacing near my bed and panting during a thunderstorm. I’d give him a Treatible biscuit and within minutes he was calmer and I could go back to sleep. Read more about my experience with Treatibles.

This is not a complete list of treatments for noise anxiety in dogs, just a listing of my experiences. A combination of Sollequin and Treatibles worked well for Chipper. Cassie had passed before I knew about Treatibles, but I think it would have helped her too.

My plan for the Fourth

I am not currently using Sollequin or Treatibles for Buffy since she has not shown any fear of thunderstorms or fireworks.

But this year she has become blind. She hasn’t seemed fearful, but yesterday she barked during a thunderstorm. I wonder if she scares easier now with her blindness—I know I would.

I have Treatibles in my freezer. Maybe Buffy will need one on the Fourth.

 

This post is not sponsored and represents my own opinion.

19 thoughts on “My Dog has No Fears on the Fourth—or will she?”

  1. Rooney’s reaction to fireworks is very different each year. This year, he doesn’t love that they have been non-stop for a week, but they are distant and faint so his stress level has been low. Last year was rough, but we lived in a different neighborhood. It is fascinating that dogs may get more sensitive as they get older. Rooney definitely didn’t struggle the first few 4th of Julys, it wasn’t until he was about 5 he started to fear fireworks.

  2. Very good point that behaviors can change especially as the dog gets older. Thanks for reminding everyone — and I hope ALL the pets stay safe this July 4!

  3. I always feel so bad for the poor dogs who freak out over fireworks and such things. Our guys are cool with such noises. But during Halloween, for example, we opted to avoid all the commotion and always made a trip into the country to avoid stressing our dogs.

  4. My dogs don’t mind fireworks (so far), but I leave them home if I go to see the fireworks. I am not sure that comforting a dog (or a person) when they are afraid really reinforces the fear. When my kids were scared when they were little, they responded well to comforting. I know dogs aren’t the same as children, but it is my experience that patience and kindness goes a long way with humans and pets. (I’m not an expert in dog training, just saying what I have found in my own experience.)

  5. I’m thinking Buffy is likely to be fearful on the 4th now that she is blind. I’m glad you have a stash of calming treats in the freezer for her. I use calming treats for my Husky as well, they take effect quickly and work really well. Let us know how it goes!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  6. Strangely, when my previous cat was alive she wasn’t afraid of thunder or fireworks, so my dog wasn’t either. But after she died, my dog became nervous – seems like he was following her lead. Now he’s older and has lost most his hearing so I shut the windows and that seems to work. (However, I don’t get to see the fireworks!)

  7. Sandy great post, I will be giving Layla CBD oil from Treatibles as I swear by it from last year and it is now in my Medicine Cabinet for emergencies. Please stay safe and have a wonderful 4th of July with a woof from Layla

  8. Kilo so far does not seem too scared (he is 5). His crate is in my office in the basement with very thick walls. He loves his crate – it makes him feel safe I believe and he usually takes himself down there and snoozes in storms – the noise is not too bad at all. Occasionally he’ll come and snuggle with me. He does get anxious with strangers and other dogs so I am keen to try Treatibles. I just watched a webinar today with them about CBDs for dogs.

  9. July 4th is not one of my favorite holidays because pets get so scared. I usually stay home with my cats to make sure they’re OK. Luckily, they don’t seem to be too afraid of the fireworks.

  10. Wow your poor babies. It breaks my heart when I hear dogs howling because of fireworks, they must be so terrified. I feel for the parents as well. I’m happy I never had a dog or cat who was bothered by thunderstorms or fireworks, but it does help knowing there are options to try and calm them. You certainly did you research and I’m glad you found some things that helped. I hope Buffy will be okay, but I know you have options at the ready!!

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