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By Abbey Nickel, Purdue University
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused cities and counties across the country to cancel their public fireworks displays, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a quiet New Year’s celebration for pet owners.
As more people celebrate with their own backyard fireworks, it could mean more anxiety for dogs that are normally afraid of loud noises.
Dr. Niwako Ogata, an associate professor of veterinary behavior medicine in Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says fireworks – along with other seasonal triggers such as storms – can be overwhelming for dogs and some cats.
Ogata has the following tips for pet owners to help their furry friends cope during New Year celebrations:
Don’t confine your pet to small spaces when they’re stressed. Ogata says to never forcefully confine your pet in a cage or room if it is panicking as that could make its condition worse. Some pets will still react in confinement, which can result in hurting themselves.
Identify a safe space. A quiet area, such as a basement or a bedroom, can help minimize noise and visual distractions. Try to identify its favorite safe space early on so your pet can establish a positive association with the room. With more people staying in and working from home this summer, Ogata also suggests staying in the room with the pet, if possible, during the noise stimulus.
Background noise. Soft music, a television or white noise can help distract pets from outside noises.
Nonpharmaceutical options. A wraparound vest that can calm pets, anti-anxiety supplements or pheromone products can be helpful for some pets, depending on the severity of the anxiety.
Consult your veterinarian. If nonpharmaceutical options don’t work, Ogata suggests consulting your veterinarian as soon as possible about trying anti-anxiety medication options, especially for dogs. “Because of the severe impact fear has on canine welfare, several medication options including a short-acting FDA-approved noise-aversion medication is now available,” Ogata says.
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