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How to Identify and Ease Anxiety in Pets

As you’re gearing up for the 4th of July, planning your barbecue side dishes and enjoying some much needed time off, you may forget that your pets may not enjoy all the festivities. Dogs can be anxious when they are afraid. Loud noises, like July 4th fireworks and celebrations, can affect your canine friend. Cats experience anxiety, too. We’re here to help you navigate what to do when your four-legged pal is anxious and be a source of calm to get your pets through the night.

Signs of Anxiety in Pets

According to the AKC, dogs exhibit different symptoms when they are anxious, from aggression to pacing, or urinating in the house. Some dogs become destructive, even trying to chew out of their own dog crate or at the door. Anxiety can cause your dog to be aggressive toward you or make your dog hurt themselves out of their fear. Cats exhibit some of the same symptoms, but their anxiety can also be more subtle. You may notice their tail twitching or that they are avoiding eye contact. Your cat may have an increased respiratory rate or their hair might stand up. Although you can’t explain to your pet that the loud noises will stop soon, you can treat anxiety to help them stay calm.

Treating Anxiety

Common lore says that when you comfort your pet when they are fearful it’s rewarding bad behavior. This is not true according to PetMD, who suggests you should offer comfort when your pet is afraid. Don’t punish your pet for acting out when they’re fearful. This can increase the risk of aggression, putting you in harm’s way. You may need to have a plan A, B and C on Independence Day to keep your dog or cat anxiety-free.

Confine or Not Confine?

When cats are afraid, you shouldn’t try to put them in a crate or carrier. It may cause them to panic even more. Try to comfort your cat or provide a safe place for them to escape to. Positive interaction when they are afraid can give them confidence. You might want to give them treats or talk to your vet about anti-anxiety cat food.

Dogs may need to be isolated to protect other people and to help give them space to calm down. If you do put your dog in a crate, don’t leave him alone. If he continues to be anxious, you don’t want him to hurt himself. A ZenCrate is a crate designed to treat anxiety in pets organically through calming effects of low lighting, a confined space and music to soothe the pet.

Exercise, Play and Attention

“A tired dog is a good dog.” Before July 4th celebrations start becoming noisy, take your dog for a long walk or give them a good playtime to wear them out. Be cautious about taking your dog out in the neighborhood when it’s noisy, because if they become anxious, they could attempt to run off. During the actual noise, if you can just love on your pet like you might normally do in the evening, it can be calming. Act like it’s any other night. Don’t let the noise alarm you so your calming response helps soothe your furbaby’s reaction.

Thundershirts for Cats or Dogs

Thundershirts are an external calming solution for both cats and dogs. It’s similar to baby swaddling or a weighted blanket that gives a pet constant pressure that is calming. It’s designed for thunderstorms, so it would translate well for a situational anxiety such as the Fourth of July. The company has other anti-anxiety treatment options that could work together to give your pet a calm evening.

Desensitization or Avoidance

In some cases, giving your cat or dog a chance to avoid the situation that causes anxiety can work. It’s hard to avoid the sounds of fireworks, though. With desensitization, you slowly expose your pet to the sounds. You might play fireworks at a very low volume so your friend hears the sound but doesn’t get upset or anxious. Over time, you increase the volume to let your pet adapt to the noise without feeling alarmed. You can’t start out with the loudest volume, you need to work up to it. There’s no way to tell how long it will take before a dog or cat is adjusted to hearing the noise, but it can certainly help over time if you are patient.

Medication to Relieve Anxiety

There are some over-the-counter medications that can help with anxiety. Cat calming pheromones promote peace and harmony between cats. It’s the scent a mother cat gives off when she is nursing. Diffusers are recommended over collars, allowing your cat to walk away from the aroma if she wants. Some pet owners have used CBD oil to relieve anxiety in pets. According to the AKC, the science is still out, so it may or may not be effective with your pet. There are many other homeopathic remedies that you could try.

Your vet can recommend prescription medication for dogs and cats with anxiety. For situational events, you may be able to get a benzodiazepine and antidepressant for pets that can relax your buddy through the “worst of the storm”. These medications are short-acting, so they’re perfect for the Fourth of July or before a trip to the vet.

Don’t be afraid to ask your vet about anxiety in your pet. Your four-legged friend should have a calm evening when the new year rings in. There are solutions.