So now that the weather is getting a lot nicer, you want to go outside more, take long walks with your four-legged family members, and have all the outdoor barbecues you can have, right? But what are you going to do about all those pesky insects that try to suck, bite, and sting all the fun out of summer nights? Not only are they a nuisance for you, but they can be just as annoying, and potentially deadly for our pets, too! Read on to learn about some of the various harmful insects, and what you can to combat them and the diseases they can transfer.
Mosquitoes: Passing on Deadly Worms
Mosquito bites are no fun for us, but are even worse for our pets because of something called heartworms. Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes that carry infective larvae, and are a potentially fatal issue for dogs and cats. The heartworm larvae move from the site of the mosquito bite through a host’s body until they reach the heart and lungs. Once they are mature, adult heartworms can get to be 12 inches long, and will cause a significant decrease in blood flow throughout the body. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can possibly lead to death if not taken care of early on.
Heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard, Revolution, and Sentinel are very instrumental in helping before any bite occurs, but getting a heartworm test and treatment at your local AAHA Accredited Veterinary Hospital will absolutely help if your dog or cat already has heartworms. Signs of heartworm disease can include: mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.” These symptoms won’t necessarily show early on in dogs, and in cats they can be very subtle, or very sudden.
Fleas & Ticks: All it Takes is One Bite
Fleas: These tiny brown bugs like to hide in cooler, shady areas like shrubs, trees, and under leaves. Despite not having wings, fleas can jump up to two feet high; so when your dog walks by, that’s when they will hop on, latch in, and start feeding on blood. The danger of fleas is that they can bring about tapeworms, skin infections, and other serious diseases. Combating fleas is as easy as using monthly preventatives such as Frontline or Nexgard, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, using a flea comb, and washing your pet’s bedding often.
Ticks: Ticks also like to hang out in shady, wooded areas, waiting for an unwary host to attach to. Once they are attached, ticks feed on blood (including you), which means they can directly transmit deadly diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and babesiosis from just one bite! You can help deter tick bites by also using monthly preventatives, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, and whenever you are done with your walk make sure to check your dog (and yourself) for any little bumps because it might be a tick!
Bees & Wasps: More than a Sting!
Bee and wasps are a bit easier to avoid because they usually have visible nests and in general they’re the most noticeable bug. If you’ve got a curious pet then you should keep an eye out. Most stings tend to occur on the face or nose because that’s how our pets investigate. They may even get stung in the mouth or throat if they end up catching the bug; and those stings can be dangerous because the poison from the sting can cause the throat to swell. Other severe reactions to look out for include weakness, difficulty breathing and excessive swelling at the sting site. If you see any of these signs you need to go to your veterinarian ASAP. Most of these severe reactions occur with multiple stings, but always give your veterinarian a call and make sure to monitor the reaction to make sure it does not worsen. All cases will be different, so always consult your veterinarian before administering any medication or remedy, such as a weak water/baking soda mixture or an ice pack.
Tips to Decrease Insect Exposure
Ask your veterinarian about monthly Flea/Tick preventatives like oral doses, liquid, and collars.
Close screened windows/doors when inside so flying bugs don’t come inside.
Use bug repellent on yourself, and only pet-safe repellent on your furry friends.
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As our pets age, they continue to hold a very special place in our hearts. Senior pets require additional care to help them carry on long and fulfilling lives. It is important to be aware of the changes in our senior pets’ health and to provide them the care they deserve. Here are some ways to help care for your senior pet:
Regular Health Check-Ups
It is recommended that all pets receive annual physical exams to ensure that your pet is in good health. As our pets age, it is even more important that they receive regular health care. As with people, dogs experience a number of health changes as they age. Preventative care is key to keeping your senior pet happy and healthy. It is recommended that your senior pet receive a health examination every 6 months. During each exam, your veterinarian can monitor health and recommend changes to help keep your senior pet comfortable.
At Centreville Animal Hospital, we are pleased to provide the Senior Wellness Bloodwork Panel. This panel is a wonderful aide in keeping track of your senior pet’s health. This invaluable panel measures many important body systems, including organ values, red and white blood cells, and includes an urinalysis. All of these components can tell a lot about your pet’s health. If the levels are abnormal, it can be an indicator of cancers or diseases. If such diseases are detected early, medications or dietary changes can be made to help restore health.
Senior pets are susceptible to discomfort changes such as arthritis. Sometimes your senior pet may seem stiff while getting up or moving around. This is certainly uncomfortable and can easily be managed by administering pain medication at home. A simple, daily dose can greatly impact your pet’s comfort. At Centreville Animal Hospital, we perform a pain assessment during your pet’s physical examination. By determining your pet’s level of pain, your doctor can provide recommendations for keeping your pet comfortable.
Keeping Comfortable with Rehabilitation
With aging joints and limbs, your senior pet could greatly benefit from rehabilitation exercises. After a consultation with your veterinarian, she can customize a plan that will allow you to perform exercises during rehabilitation appointments and at home. Keeping your senior pet active is very important as it will help maintain muscle mass and more comfortable movements. Acupuncture is a method of rehabilitation that involves applying very small needles to certain points of the body. This provide relief for a wide range of conditions, including relieving discomfort. Acupuncture is a painless, natural method that has been very effective for both pets and humans.
Recognizing Nutritional Needs
Your pet’s nutritional needs are important to help sustain health. What your pet consumes can greatly impact his overall health. By referring to the Senior Wellness Bloodwork Panel results, modifying and supplementing your senior pet’s diet can greatly impact the necessary vitamins and minerals your pet may be lacking as he ages. There are several prescription diets that are designed to help treat certain diseases and others for general senior care.
By recognizing changes in your pet’s health as he ages, these preventative and treatment methods will greatly impact your senior pet’s health and comfort. As pet owners, we want nothing but the best for our furry companions, and Centreville Animal Hospital is committed to providing you with options that will offer a better quality of life.
He was abandoned on the side of a busy road, without food, water, shelter or the ability to walk.
Life was looking bleak for a dog named French Fry until kind-hearted volunteers from Centreville Animal Hospital
and the Fairfax County Animal Shelter made it their mission to get him up, rolling and into a ‘forever home.’
The canine flu has evolved and our vaccination coverage has evolved with it to provide your dog with the best protection. The most recent dog flu outbreak started in the Chicago area and is a new strain of flu for the US, similar to how the human flu vaccine changes annually. We have the newest vaccine available for our patients here at Centreville Animal Hospital!
Canine Influenza, or dog flu, can affect any dog causing mild symptoms such as lethargy and a cough to more severe symptoms including a high fever and pneumonia. Any dog is at risk for being exposed to the flu, but those dogs frequenting dog parks, boarding facilities, and groomers are at an even higher risk. The old canine influenza vaccine does not provide adequate protection from the newer strain of dog flu that is active in the US now. It is recommended that your dog have a series of 2 vaccines, 2-4 weeks apart, with the newer vaccine to provide the best protection available.
If you notice any signs of the dog flu in your beloved family member, such as a cough, lethargy, decreased appetite, increased respiratory effort or nasal discharge please contact your veterinarian right away and do not allow your dog to socialize with other dogs.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has released an informational brochure to answer many of the common questions regarding canine influenza and the vaccine available:
AVMA Canine Influenza FAQ
Dr. Destiny Coleman, VMD
Animal injuries can occur at any time, and generally occur when least expected (like when you are away from home), so it’s best to prepare ahead of time. Keeping a pet First Aid kit handy — at home and in your car — is a great way to ease the stress of dealing with health issues that occur, wherever you may be. Below is a list of recommended information and items to include.
Important Phone Numbers:
- Phone number for your veterinarian
- Phone number for the nearest emergency veterinary clinic (along with directions!)
- Phone number for a poison control hotline (such as the ASPCA poison control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435)
- Copy of your pet’s vaccination certificate for proof of vaccines in case an emergency treatment is needed
- Current photo of your pet (in case he/she gets lost)
- Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur, such as VetWrap, which is available at pet stores)
- Muzzle or roll of gauze for making a muzzle to prevent biting (don’t use this if your pet is vomiting, choking, coughing, or otherwise having difficulty breathing)
- Nylon leash
Basic First Aid Supplies:
- Absorbent gauze pads
- Adhesive tape
- Non-prescription antibiotic ointment
- Antiseptic wipes
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Disposable gloves
- Gauze rolls
- Hot/cold compress
- Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting — but do this only when directed by a veterinarian or poison control expert)
- Petroleum jelly (to lubricate a thermometer)
- Rectal thermometer
- Scissors with blunt ends
- Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
- Sterile saline (sold at pharmacies, or you can use contact lens solution)
- Styptic powder or sticks, Kwik Stop, or cornstarch
Other Useful Items:
- A pillowcase (to confine your cat for treatment)
- A pet carrier
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl — only use when directed by a veterinarian)
- Ear cleaning solution
- Emergency blanket
- Gatorade or Pedialyte (for rehydrating)
- Karo syrup (for diabetic pets who may have low blood sugar)
- Nail clippers
- Penlight or flashlight
- Rubbing alcohol
- Tongue depressors (for a makeshift splint)
Taking a Heart Rate or Pulse
Knowing how to check vital signs is also important in the case of an emergency. The heartbeat of a dog or cat can be felt at about the point where the left elbow touches the chest. Place your hand over this area and count the heartbeats while keeping time on a phone or stopwatch.
Pulses can also be felt with a light touch on the inner thigh, approximately halfway between the front and back of the leg, just below the wrist on the front legs or just below the ankle of the rear legs.
Normal Heart and Pulse Rates at Rest
Small breed dogs (under 30 pounds): 100–160 beats per minute
Medium to large breed dogs (over 30 pounds): 60–100 beats per minute
Puppy (until 1 year old): 120–160 beats per minute
Cats: 130–220 beats per minute
Normal Breathing Rates
Dogs: 10–30 breaths per minute and up to 200 pants per minute
Cats: 20–30 breaths per minute. (Note: panting in a cat can be a sign of serious illness and requires immediate veterinary attention)
You can learn more about this topic from the sources below, or contact your veterinarian for advice if your pet has special needs.
American Red Cross Smartphone App for Pet First Aid: www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/pet-first-aid-app
AVMA Pet First Aid Information: www.avma.org/public/EmergencyCare/Pages/First-Aid-Tips-for-Pet-Owners.aspx
Humane Society First Aid Kit: www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pet_first_aid_kit.html
Contributed by Janelle Powell, Office Manager (with Charlie)
Tick-borne disease agents, intestinal parasites, heartworms . . . these hideous pests are just some of the parasites that can infect our pets, inflicting discomfort, pain, and possibly dangerous illness. Parasites are located nearly everywhere in the environment, so there are many different ways your pet can get infected. Something as simple as eating grass or licking paws after a walk outdoors poses a potential risk of your pet picking up a parasite. So what do you do? Prevention is key.
How Pets Get Infected
Dogs, cats, and other mammals can be exposed to parasites in various ways, starting at birth. These are just some of the most common sources of exposure:
- Puppies can be infected from their mother during pregnancy or nursing.
- Parasite eggs present in soil can get into our homes on the soles of our shoes.
- Potting soil purchased for indoor plants can host parasite eggs.
- Cats and dogs can contract parasites from ingesting rodents, fleas, or other insects.
Parasites such as the worms that infect dogs—including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms—live in the intestines, so that’s the first place your vet will look for them. They only shed eggs intermittently, so pets with parasites can have a “healthy” stool sample that doesn’t reveal any evidence of parasites. If left unchecked, parasites can stay undetected for a long time. It is crucial to test for parasites at least once a year and to give your pet a monthly heartworm preventive that also treats and controls intestinal parasites. Puppies and kittens should always be dewormed.
Symptoms of Infection
It is very important to know whether any of your pets may be carrying parasites. This is not only to avoid illness in your pet, but also to avoid transmission to family members. As carriers of zoonotic disease (disease that can be passed to humans from animals), parasites can cause serious problems in people, such as blindness—especially in children (roundworms), and migration under the skin (hookworms). Below are some of the symptoms to look out for in your pet:
- weight loss
Heartworms are a type of internal parasite that lives in the major blood vessels of the lungs. Their name comes from the fact that in severe cases they can migrate to the heart. Heartworms are transmitted to animals by mosquitoes, making heartworm disease endemic in this area (it is always present in our local environment due to our climate and wildlife). Dogs are especially at risk because they frequently encounter mosquitoes outdoors, but animals that stay inside (inside cats and dogs) can also be infected. As most of us know from our own experience, mosquitoes can easily get inside our homes. Currently, there is no feline heartworm treatment available, and treatment in dogs can be quite costly. Heartworms are fatal if not detected before they enter the advanced stages of the disease.
Treatment and Prevention
In the case of many kinds of worms, treatment is given orally (by mouth) or in a shot. Many of these drugs are considered “broad-spectrum” because they’re effective in treating a wide range of parasites, including worms that live in the gut. This is the case for many monthly heartworm preventatives, which contain medication that helps prevent the more common intestinal parasites. Keeping your environment free of dirt, feces, and vermin is another important step in prevention parasites from affecting you and you pets. Standing water outside your home (such as in a bird bath) can attract mosquitoes to come lay their eggs, so eliminating those sources is important.
All pets are at risk of exposure to internal parasites, but there are measures we can take to help protect them, and us. Contact your veterinarian to discuss an individualized parasite prevention program tailored to your own pet’s needs.
Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC): http://www.petsandparasites.org/about-capc/
CAPC brochure: http://www.petsandparasites.org/images/uploads/documents/CAPC_ParaBro_1.11_LR.pdf
Cesar Milan: http://www.cesarsway.com/Heartgard/Intestinal-Parasites
CAH Blog: Parasites: The Hidden Intruders
Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/animals.html
Contributed by Dr. Marsha Pollock, DVM
This week is National Poison Prevention Week, which makes it a great time to look at some of the preventable toxicities that we are increasingly seeing in our animal patients. Many of us know how dangerous chocolate, raisins, grapes, certain plants, human medications, fertilizers, and pest control products can be to our pets, but do you know that your favorite chewing gum can be deadly to a dog? Do you know that visits of pets to veterinarians around the United States are increasing due to medical marijuana and legalized recreational usage?
This blog focuses on two fairly new and growing toxicities seen by veterinarians today: xylitol poisoning and marijuana toxicity.
Xylitol poisoning is one that our practice has seen twice in the last year. A naturally occurring alcohol, xylitol is found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is widely used as a sugar substitute and is used in sugar-free chewing gums, mints, and other candies. Xylitol is also added to many oral healthcare products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, to help prevent tooth decay and dry mouth.
The problem with xylitol is that a very small amount can be very toxic to some animals. What it does is cause a sudden release of the hormone insulin, which in turn causes a rapid drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), which can be very dangerous. Signs of hypoglycemia can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion, or may be delayed up to 12 to18 hours if the xylitol is in a material that slows its absorption (such as gum products).
Signs of Xylitol Poisoning
- ataxia (uncoordinated movements)
- severe cases can lead to coma, liver dysfunction and/or failure, and death
Treatment and Prognosis
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested a product containing xylitol. Dogs are the primary victims of this toxicity and specialists suspect this is because cats are typically pickier about what they eat. (It is suspected that ferrets may show the same clinical toxicities as dogs do with xylitol.)
Each animal may react differently, so treatment and prognosis are highly variable and depend on how much xylitol was ingested. The first thing your veterinarian is likely to do is test blood glucose level. After that, the course of action is very dependent on how your pet is doing. If the animal’s blood sugar is low, intravenous fluids containing glucose will be given. Your pet will likely be hospitalized, further lab tests will be run, and treatment will depend on the lab results.
The second toxicity that is being seen around the United States with increasing frequency is marijuana poisoning. Dogs and cats can be poisoned by marijuana from second-hand smoke exposure or from direct ingestion of marijuana or baked foods laced with THC (pot brownies, pot butter, etc.). Most cases of marijuana toxicity we see in pets are not the result of inhalation, but are from ingestion of the marijuana itself. Clinical signs can usually be seen within three hours.
Signs of Mild Marijuana Toxicity
- altered response to visual or verbal stimuli
- red eyes, dilated pupils
- other behavior changes
Signs of Severe Marijuana Toxicity
- uncoordinated movement (ataxia)
- slow heart rate (bradycardia)
- drooling (pytalism)
- vomiting (emesis)
- urinary incontinence
- coma and death are possible in severe cases
A pet suspected of ingesting marijuana should be examined by a veterinarian. After lab work is done, treatment may include inducing vomiting (depending on the time of ingestion), an activated charcoal treatment, intravenous fluids, or hospitalization, as needed.
Ensuring your pet never suffers from one of these toxicities is pretty easy and straightforward since both of these substances are easy to identify and to keep away from pets. Knowing they can be very harmful to your pet is the first step. To learn more about other substances that are toxic to your pets, read these other blog posts: Making Your Garden Safe for Pets, No Halloween Candy for Pets!, 911 for Pets: Recognizing an Emergency, and Your Pets Don’t Know What’s Bad for Them.
Pet Poison Helpline: 800-213-6680 or petpoisonhelpline.com
Contributed by Dr. Rhonda Pierce
Member: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Northern Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), DC Academy, Ultrasound Society
It’s cold and there’s snow outside, so who’s thinking about fleas, ticks, and heartworms? Well, it might be cold now, but remember a couple of weeks ago when the temperature was in the 60s and you let your pets outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine . . .
The fact of it is, dogs and cats can get fleas, ticks, and heartworms almost any time of year in our area, so treatment shouldn’t be seasonal; it should be maintained all year round. Read on to learn more about how these pests survive the cold and why your pet should be treated year-round.
While ideal temperatures for the growth and reproduction of fleas range between 65 and 80 degrees, flea pupae can remain dormant for over a year—cocooned until their surroundings have reached ideal temperatures. As long as an adult flea can find a suitable host to feed from, it can stay warm and healthy throughout the entire cold season. The flea can even survive temperatures in the upper 30s. Anyone who has had a pet with fleas knows that they are not just very unpleasant invaders, but can be very difficult to eliminate once they have established themselves in your home.
Like fleas, ticks are capable of surviving winter temperatures if they can find a suitable host to feed on and use for warmth (i.e., you or your pets). In fact, ticks can comfortably live in temperatures hovering around 45 degrees. Just like for humans, the biggest threat for our pets when it comes to ticks are the diseases they spread, such as Lyme disease. In the Northeast, warmer spring temperatures are leading to an earlier emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new regions. See the map below. You can also read more about this at http://phys.org/news/2015-02-warmer-world-disease-earlier-ranges.html.
Heartworms live inside a host animal, regardless of the season or temperature. There they mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. Left untreated, their numbers can increase to as many as several hundred in a single animal’s body. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the animal’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. It can take up to 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected, so prevention is key. You can read more about the affects of heartworm disease on your pet here.
In an area like ours, where the weather can change from one day to the next, your best bet is to continue monthly treatment for your pet all year round. For fleas and ticks there are a number of different treatments available. While it is hard to make a recommendation that fits all situations, we have seen very good results from the newer-generation oral (taken by mouth) products such as NexGard®. One benefit of orally administered products is that they do not get degraded by bathing or swimming, are much safer in households with young children, and have new active ingredients that fleas and ticks are not yet resistant to.
Heartworm preventatives, such as Heartgard®, Sentinel®, and Revolution® are very effective at preventing heartworms and also treat and prevent some intestinal parasitic diseases like hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm. Each preventative has its own advantages, so we look at each patient’s health and individual risk factors to determine which preventative we recommend.
About Pet Medications
Don’t forget to discuss preventatives with your veterinarian at your pet’s next annual physical, or make an appointment now — before the weather really warms up — to discuss flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Some veterinarians and animal hospitals allow you to re-order regular medications using an online pharmacy, as we do at Centreville Animal Hospital. In addition to ordering convenience, these sites often offer coupons and specials.
Contributed by Zach Buchanan, Veterinary Assistant
During Rabies Awareness Week, we want to remind all pet owners of the importance of vaccinating against this fatal disease (World Rabies Day is Sunday, September 28). Rabies is a virus that is most often transmitted through saliva and bite wounds from an infected animal, and it can affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including dogs, cats, and humans. Vaccination is an easy, inexpensive way to prevent this nightmarish disease.
While the most commonly known symptom of rabies is foaming at the mouth, this is usually not the first sign pet owners will see. (See list of symptoms below.) Since there is no treatment or cure for rabies in animals once symptoms appear, animals who are suspected of having the virus are most often euthanized.
Rabies causes the death of more than 50,000 humans, and millions of animals worldwide, and the disease has been reported in every state in the United States except Hawaii, and everywhere throughout the world except tiny island nations.*
Federal law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated for rabies once they are 12 weeks old, and that they stay current on the vaccine for the duration of their lives. Only a vaccine administered by a state licensed veterinarian is considered legal. Your veterinarian will let you know the right vaccination schedule for your pet.
Progression of Rabies Symptoms
- Change in behavior, usually shown by the pet being more reclusive or shy, or a change in the pet’s voice. You may notice excessive licking or scratching the initial bite wound. (1–1.5 days after symptoms start)
- The animal will seem to become fearless and aggressive and may experience hallucinations. When confined, the pet may attack the bars of its cage.
(2–3 days after symptoms start)
- The pet will experience weakness and/or paralysis. Once this stage occurs, death is imminent as the muscles that control breathing will become paralyzed as well.
(4–5 days days after symptoms start)
One of the most difficult aspects of rabies is that it can take up to one year for obvious symptoms to appear. Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has been bitten by an animal (especially foxes, skunks, raccoons, bats, and dogs/cats with unknown vaccination status) that could have rabies or is showing any signs of rabies or abnormal behavior.
Even if your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations, if it has been bitten by a possibly rabid animal, it should receive a rabies booster immediately and be kept under observation for a period of time determined by your local public health department.
If an animal that is overdue or not vaccinated for rabies bites you, there are a number of protocols that must be followed, as listed below.
- If the pet has been legally vaccinated for rabies, but is overdue for its booster, it will be quarantined for a period of time (as dictated by the local public health department), observed for symptoms, and vaccinated at the end of the quarantine.
- If the pet has never been vaccinated for rabies more drastic measures must be taken. The pet must be quarantined for up to six months or will be euthanized to allow testing for rabies.
Animal Control officers and veterinarians working together facilitate rabies testing through the state laboratory system. Testing requires a brain tissue sample, which can only be collected from a deceased animal. For more information regarding animal exposure and prevention, speak with one of our veterinarians.
Rabies in People
If you are exposed to rabies, there are a number of things that must be done:
- Clean the wound, as quickly as possible, using warm water and soap for at least 1 minute.
- Report the bite to the health department immediately.
- Get to the hospital for post-exposure treatment. The wound will be flushed with a hyperimmune serum to hopefully counteract the virus before it penetrates the nerves. Then, a number of vaccines will be administered on a regular schedule lasting about 1 month.
For more info regarding human exposure protocols, you can contact the Centers for Disease Control.
Global Alliance for Rabies
Centreville Animal Hospital is donating a portion of the proceeds from rabies vaccinations on Monday, September 29, to Global Alliance for Rabies. This is an organization that is trying to raise awareness of this fatal disease through education and is working to vaccinate animals and people for rabies in endemic regions. Visit our Facebook page for more info: https://www.facebook.com/CentrevilleAnimalHospital.
Contributed by Eric Fogle
As much as we love to include our pets in celebrations, especially in the summer when the weather is warm, on July 4th it is best to leave them at home and make sure they are separated from the festivities. Like thunderstorms, which upset many pets, the loud, quick bursts of sound from fireworks can cause dogs and cats to panic. And what you may not know is that the sounds emitted from fireworks can actually cause physical damage to their ears. Keeping your dog or cat at home and creating a calm environment is a much better option than exposing him or her to a stressful, and possibly even painful, experience.
Sign of Stress Due to Noise Phobia
- Shaking, trembling
- Excessive drooling
- Barking, howling
- Trying to hide or get into/out of the house, fence, or other enclosure
- Refusing to eat food
- Some animals may loose bladder or bowel control or experience temporary diarrhea from prolonged stress
The psychological dangers of fireworks and other stressful situations can be just as real as the threat of physical harm. Many dogs and cats become confused and anxious by sudden loud noises and will bolt or make desperate efforts to get away. Some even break out of confined areas. Fearful dogs and cats trying to escape the loud sudden noises can get hit by cars and even hurt themselves by trying to escape their confinement. Why put them in a situation that they want/need to flee? It is best to leave your pets at home and create an environment where they can feel safe and comfortable. Here are some tips:
Before the Fireworks Begin
- Take your dog out for a vigorous, long walk. A well-exercised dog is more likely to be tired and sleep through the noise.
- Engage your cat is some one-on-one playtime.
- Feed your dog or cat before the fireworks begin. Once the noise starts he/she may become too stressed to eat.
- Make sure your home is secured enough to keep your pet inside. Some animals will try to escape, even if it means breaking through a screened door or window. Closing your windows and turning on the air conditioning is a good idea.
- Make efforts to calm your pet before the celebrations begin. Spend some quiet time showing your pet affection and positive attention.
- Give your pet a comfortable place to rest—or even hide—during the fireworks.
- Create some other noise distraction; turning on the TV or radio (soothing music or talk radio) may help drown out the noise of fireworks.
- Never punish your dog or cat for hiding! This is likely to raise his/her anxiety level.
- If you can, remain with your pet during this time. Leaving a pet alone may exacerbate its distress.
- If your pet shows signs of fear, offer him attention, comfort, and support, or simply give him the space and permission to retreat to a place that feels safe.
- Try playing with your pet with toys or otherwise create a distraction, but avoid giving treats; better not to reinforce their reaction to the loud fireworks.
- If you cannot stay home, make sure your pets are in a safe, secure place where, if distressed, they cannot injure themselves.
Other treatments/interventions may be warranted for pets with severe reactions to noise stressors such as fireworks. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian ahead of time (even the day of) if you know your pet has difficulty with loud noises. Below are some options to consider:
Sedatives—Find out about medications your veterinarian can prescribe to help relax your pet during this time.
Thundershirt—This shirt works by gently “hugging” your pet by applying constant pressure. This sensation can have a positive effect on dogs and cats who are anxious, fearful, or tend to become overexcited.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about how to prepare your pet for the July 4th fireworks, or other situations that create noisy or stressful environments.
>> You can also read about the personal experience of a veterinarian and her dog with noise anxiety in this blog post: Tycoon’s Anxiety Teaches Me Patience.
Contributed by Zach Buchanan, Veterinary Assistant (shown with his dog, Katie)