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Posted on 07-03-2014

Happy 4th of July this weekend!  This holiday marks the beginning of thunderstorm and firework season for our area.  Many dogs have a panic attack when they hear (or even feel) a thunderstorm approaching.  Both fireworks and storms are difficult to predict, leaving dog owners searching for help to alleviate this anxiety.  There are several ways you can help your dog during these stressful times.  Don’t punish your dog when he is stressed, this can make the behavior worse.  Also, try to ignore your dog; petting and reassurance can seem like a reward, making it worse over time.  You might have seen “Thundershirts” at the pet store [www.thundershirt.com/]; they really do work for most dogs!  Don’t be fooled by imitations, purchase the brand name product, and some stores even offer a guarantee.  Also, I am a fan of Rescue Remedy [www.bachflower.com/bach-animals/] – an all-natural, holistic treatment for anxiety that will not sedate you dog.  Offering a bone to chew on or treat filled toy (Kong) can keep your dog occupied and take his mind off the noise. Provide plenty of familiar toys and play games that might help to distract your dog, keep the TV or music playing to act as filter noise. Training programs that consist of systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning are very helpful also, especially for dogs with severe anxiety – ask for detailed instructions regarding this type of training.  In severe cases, dogs may need anxiety medication to prevent harm and destruction.  Please ask your veterinarian before giving any medication to your dog.  They may prescribe a mild sedative to use when panic sets in. 

Have a safe and happy fourth!

Dr. Christine O'Connell

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