Did you notice it’s fireworks season? We guarantee your dog did!
It seems like this year is worse than ever, with fireworks going off every single night since May. They’re booming and crackling all evening long … and sometimes even in broad daylight.
The good news is, you don’t have to resort to doggie Prozac to help your dog with his fear of fireworks.
So here are a few tips and few natural remedies that can help your dog.
It’s probably not hard to tell when your dog’s afraid of fireworks or other loud noises. But just in case, here are some behaviors to watch for.
Signs That Your Dog’s Scared Of Fireworks
Sometimes your dog makes it very clear he’s scared. But other signs may be more subtle. Here are some signs …
- Hyper-alert, jumpy
- Muscle tension
- Tail between his legs
- Ears back, showing whites of eyes
- Licking his lips
- Hiding under furniture, in a closet or bathroom
- Trying to get very close to you
- Barking or growling
- Pacing or running around the house
- Trying to get out of the room or house
- Not interested in food or treats
- Compulsive behavior like excessive licking or biting at himself
- Destructive behavior
- Peeing in the house
- Diarrhea or loose stool
If you ask your vet about your dog’s fear of fireworks … she may recommend anti-anxiety medication. But here’s why you should say “no thanks” to that.
Avoid Anti-Anxiety Drugs
Many anti-anxiety medications are human antidepressant drugs like …
These drugs aren’t ideal for treating dog anxiety.
First of all, your dog may need to take them for several weeks to feel calmer. So they may not help at all if you start giving them just before a holiday. And then he may need to keep taking the drugs to continue the anti-anxiety effect. So some dogs end up taking them for life.
Not to mention this really massive list of possible side effects …
- Vomiting or nausea
- Change in appetite
- Weight change
- Weakness or clumsiness
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Increased urination
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting
- Hyperactivity, aggression or increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Runny nose
- Dry mouth
- Skin problems
Then there are more serious side effects or allergic reactions. If these happen, call your vet right away.
- Muscle tremors
- Breathing problems
- Hives or facial swelling
- Rapid heartbeat
Some drugs can even cause withdrawal symptoms when you use them for a long time and stop too quickly. Anti-anxiety meds can also react badly with other medications. So if you do decide to use them … make sure your vet checks for drug interactions.
Note: If you decide to use these drugs as a last resort, don’t just use a human prescription. Ask your vet to prescribe the correct drug and dosage for your dog. You’ll also want your vet to monitor your dog’s liver and kidney functions while on the drugs. And don’t use anti-anxiety drugs if your dog has existing liver or kidney issues or is prone to seizures.
Before we get into natural remedies … here are a few things that might help when fireworks are really bad.
How To Manage Firework Anxiety
Experiment with some of these ideas to help your dog relax when fireworks are going off.
- Stay home with your dog (or get a sitter) after dark on big firework holidays like July 4th.
- Give him plenty of exercise earlier in the day, so he’s as relaxed as possible.
- Get him out to pee and poop before the fireworks start.
- Feed him earlier too. Lots of dogs aren’t interested in food when they’re scared. And he may get sleepier after a meal.
- Keep your dog indoors, preferably in a basement or interior room.
- Close your curtains or shades to muffle sound and block out firework flashes.
- Play calming music (you can find a lot on YouTube) or keep the TV on.
- White noise like the air conditioning or a fan can help.
- Try pressure wraps, like a Thundershirt, Anxiety Wrap or T-Touch Wrap. Even a tight t-shirt can help.
- Encourage your dog to settle where he feels safest – his crate, favorite bed, or on the sofa with you!
- Try distracting him with games, favorite toys, a delicious raw bone or other treats.
- Don’t be afraid to pet, massage or snuggle with your dog. Some people claim this reinforces the fear, but usually it just helps your dog feel safer and fall asleep.
- If he needs to go out, take him out on a leash … don’t let him loose in your yard where he might panic and escape.
As well as the above steps, there are plenty of natural remedies to choose from.
5 Ways To Calm Your Dog During Fireworks
There are many natural remedies that’ll help take the edge off your dog’s fear of fireworks. You can choose from …
- Flower remedies (or essences)
- Essential oils
- CBD Oil
It all depends on your personal preferences … and what works best for your dog.
#1 Homeopathic Remedies
If you’re into homeopathy, there are a few remedies that can help ease your dog’s anxiety.
- Read the descriptions and try the remedy you think is the best fit for your dog.
- If you don’t see improvement after a few doses, try a different remedy.
- Once you see improvement in your dog, stop giving the remedy.
- Or you can reduce the dosing frequency … and at some point you may be able to stop completely.
This is a great remedy for any fear or trauma. You can give it every fifteen minutes while fireworks are going off. Once you see improvement, stop dosing. Re-dose once if your dog starts to get anxious again.
This remedy is good for all noise phobias. Give it once or twice a day during fireworks season.
Aurum Metallicum 30C
This can help with many noise sensitivities. Give it once or twice a day during firework or thunderstorm season.
This remedy is specific for fear of thunderstorms … but it may also help for fireworks. You can give it twice a day.
RELATED: Read how to dose homeopathic remedies in this article …
There are several herbs that have calming effects during stressful situations.
Herbalists Mary L Wulff and Gregory L Tilford don’t recommend using sedative herbs long term. But they can work very well to manage your dog’s fear or stress … whether for a trip to the vet or during firework displays.
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile is well known for soothing the digestive tract … but it can also help calm your dog. It’s a mild herb that can relax your dog at stressful times. So it’s a good one to try before other more potent herbs.
Use a glycerin tincture and give .25-.50 ml per 20 lb, twice daily leading up to the event. Place it in your dog’s mouth or drinking water.
Caution: Chamomile is considered very safe, but some animals can be allergic. Start with very small amounts to make sure your dog doesn’t have a reaction.
Oat Straw (Avena sativa)
Dr Randy Kidd recommends oat as his first choice to soothe anxiety. He says it’s easy to give because you can make a tea and add it to your dog’s food.
Buy organic oat straw at a health store or grow your own. Make a tea using 1 tsp herb to 8 oz water. Let it cool and add 2 – 4 oz to your dog’s food daily.
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian root is an effective anti-anxiety herb.
Starting 3 days before the holiday, give 5 drops of valerian root tincture, 3-4 times a day (for any size dog).
Caution: Valerian is generally safe, but large doses may cause digestive upset. Don’t use it in pregnant dogs. If your dog is a “hot” dog who’s always panting or looking for a cool place to sleep, avoid valerian as it’s a warming herb.
#3 Flower Remedies
Flower remedies are gentle extracts that can be very effective in calming your dog.
They’re easy to give because you can just put them in your dog’s water bowl. It doesn’t matter if other dogs drink from the same bowl. The beauty of flower essences is that they don’t affect an animal who doesn’t need them.
You can also use a dropper to put them right in your dog’s mouth.
And they’re completely safe so you can’t overdose them. You can keep giving them as needed … even every 15 minutes or so while fireworks are going on.
This famous blend is available in any health store. It’s proven to ease fear and anxiety. It’s a combination of Rock Rose, Impatiens, Clematis, Cherry Plum, and Star of Bethlehem.
You can also consider some individual remedies … or combine a few that you think suit your dog. Here are some that are good for fear.
This is one of the ingredients in Rescue Remedy. It’s good for panic and fear. Try it if your dog trembles or hides under the furniture during fireworks.
This remedy is for fear of known origin, so it can work well for specific fears. Try it if your dog’s afraid of fireworks … or storms. Or even the vacuum cleaner or going to the groomer.
If your dog is very clingy, try this remedy.
This is a good one for loss of self control. Try it if your dog seems panicked, is barking uncontrollably or can’t stop scratching or licking.
Those are a few that can help. To read about other remedies, download this guide to all 38 Bach flower remedies. You can find remedies at health stores or online vendors, including Amazon.
There are also companies that specialize in selling blends for specific issues. Aldaron Essences and Green Hope Farm are two good ones you can find online.
RELATED: Why I Changed My Mind About Bach Flower Remedies …
Dosing Flower Remedies
You can put 2 drops from the remedy stock bottles into your dog’s water bowl or straight into his mouth.
But it’s best to make up a separate treatment bottle. That way you don’t risk contaminating the bottle if you touch your dog’s mouth with the glass dropper.
- Get a clean 30 ml amber glass dropper bottle
- Put 2 drops of each selected remedy into it
- Top up with spring water (don’t use distilled water)
- To preserve it, add ½ tsp of brandy
#4 Essential Oils
If you love essential oils, there are lots of possibilities. First … a word about safety.
Safe Use Of Essential Oils
Herbalist Rita Hogan advises never using undiluted essential oils on a dog. So always dilute them in a carrier oil before using them.
Use a 0.5 percent to 1 percent dilution. This means 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of a carrier oil. She recommends using almond or apricot kernel oil.
Let Your Dog Choose
Always let your dog sniff the unopened bottle first. If he turns away or shows he doesn’t like it, don’t use that oil. And if you choose to diffuse the oils, make sure all your pets have a way to leave the room if they’re uncomfortable.
Some calming essential oils you can use are …
- Roman Chamomile
Calming Essential Oil Recipes
For fireworks fear, aromatherapist Kelly Holland Azzaro recommends this blend for topical use.
Add these oils to 2 oz of your choice of carrier oil:
- 8 to 10 drops of neroli
- 6-8 drops of petitgrain
- 4-6 drops of lavender
Mix thoroughly. Spray lightly onto the back of your dog’s neck or rub on his collar.
Essential oils are very powerful, so hydrosols can be a much gentler option. Hydrosols are left over from the essential oil making process. They’re much less concentrated than the essential oils, so they’re safer for dogs.
Hydrosol Calming Spray
This calming spray from canine herbalist Rita Hogan is great for general anxiety. The chamomile and lavender hydrosols in it will soothe and calm your dog.
- ½ oz neroli hydrosol
- ½ oz blue chamomile hydrosol
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
Mix the ingredients together in a spray bottle. Shake before using and mist your dog. Refrigerate for up to 6 months.
#5 CBD Oil
CBD (cannabidiol) oil is a real game-changer for many dogs when it comes to managing fear or anxiety.
CBD oil comes from hemp (not marijuana). It can offer many of the same relaxing benefits, but it won’t make your dog high. The difference is in the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the constituent in marijuana that creates the “high.”
But CBD oil can legally have no more than 0.3% THC. So CBD can have calming effects for your dog … but without the buzz!
But how does it work?
How CBD Calms Your Dog
CBD works on your dog’s endocannabinoid system.
Your dog has cannabinoid receptors throughout his central nervous system. In fact, the body releases endocannabinoid chemicals on its own. These connect with receptors that stimulate serotonin production. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer.
Research shows that CBD activates serotonin. It interacts with the nervous system to calm your dog. There’s even some dog specific research.
AHVMA Studies On CBD For Dogs
The AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) has done two studies on CBD oil for dogs. In both studies the researchers surveyed dog owners who were giving their dogs CBD. The 2018 research is more meaningful because the 2016 one only looked at one brand of CBD.
In the 2018 study, the researchers asked what side effects the owners noticed. In both studies the most common side effect was sedation. The next most common response was dry mouth and increased thirst.
So that means your dog might get a little sleepy when you give him CBD. And that’s not a bad thing if there are fireworks going off in the neighborhood!
The researchers also asked how well CBD oil worked for the dogs. And they asked specifically about CBD for thunderstorm or fireworks phobia.
In the 2018 study, nearly 22% of the dog owners using CBD for this purpose said it was … “more effective than conventional meds.” Almost 30% of them said CBD worked as well as conventional meds.
So it can really help you avoid conventional medications. And it’s a whole lot safer. Just be sure to find a high quality CBD.
How To Choose A Good CBD
So … there are tons of different CBD oil products on the market. How do you choose the best one for your dog?
Buy Full Spectrum CBD
The most effective CBD products contain a full range of cannabinoids. Not just CBD, but others like CBC, CBN, CBG and CBA. Giving a wide range of cannabinoids creates the “entourage effect” … when all the cannabinoids work together.
Otherwise your CBD could contain pesticides, fungicides or solvents.
You Get What You Pay For
CBD isn’t cheap. So don’t price shop. Make sure you choose a high quality, pure product.
Check The Analysis
Ask the seller for a Certificate Of Analysis showing how much CBD is in the product. The COA should also show how much THC there is (remember it should be less than 0.3%). And the lab should also have tested for contaminants.
You can buy CBD in treats. Those are easier to dose, but usually don’t have enough CBD to be effective. A tincture is the best choice … and it allows you to adjust the dose to suit your dog.
Click here to read more detail about choosing the best CBD for your dog.
How To Dose CBD
CBD is great for situational anxiety like fireworks … because it works quickly. You can give it 30-90 minutes beforehand to help calm your dog and keep him relaxed.
For the best results, buy a full spectrum CBD and give your dog the tincture straight in his mouth with the dropper. You can add it to food or a treat if you need to.
How Much CBD To Give
Read the label on the bottle to see how many milligrams of actual CBD are in each dropper. Then give 1mg to 6mg of CBD per 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight.
If you’re not sure or haven’t used it before … you can start at the lower end of the range and then give your dog more as needed.
Don’t be afraid to adjust the dose or give a bit extra if your dog seems like he needs more help. Every individual has different cannabinoid receptors, so dosing levels are just recommendations.
So now you can get ready for fireworks with some natural solutions for your dog’s fear!
de Mello Schier AR et al. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(6):953-60.
Kogan LR et al. Dog owners’ use and perceptions of cannabis products. AHVMA Journal, Volume 51 Summer 2018