View Full Version : Fireworks - sedatives for dogs?

Jun. 29, 2010, 02:25 AM
Last year, my dog spent half of the 4th of July shaking because of fireworks/firecrackers. She's got a vet checkup tomorrow, so I'll be asking her vet if there's anything I can give her to make it easier on her, but I thought maybe someone here would know what to suggest/ask about specifically? The poor dog paces endlessly, cries, can't settle, actually shakes. I keep her inside in the air-conditioning, and try to distract her, but after enough explosions she just can't relax anymore.

Vent - I could just kill my neighbors for this crap. Everything bigger than a sparkler is illegal here. If they really have their hearts set on blowing things up, why can't they take it over to Pennsylvania, where it's legal to buy and use anything that isn't actually nuclear? Jerks.

Jun. 29, 2010, 02:53 AM
We live super-close to the Tulalip reservation, where large quantities of fireworks are sold legally. One of our neighbors came home with the equivalent of 1/4 sticks of dynamite, and the residents at a nearby lake pay professional pyrotechnicians to put on a show, so we can't catch a break. Our neighborhood already sounds like a war zone, and our three dogs are uneasy and frightened every evening. They are normally outside dogs so bringing them inside doesn't really help- then they're just nervous indoors.
We normally ask our vet for acepromazine in a tablet form. We dose the dogs just prior to sunset according to their weight, and then let them into our shop where we play NPR very loudly on the radio. This worked well last year- the dogs just laid quietly in the corner until all of the explosions stopped. We usually end up dosing them on both nights of the week-end before the 4th (did that already) and on the nights of the 3rd and 4th.

Our horses seem totally nonplussed by all of this, which amazes me. One of our neighbors is a Vietnam vet, and he alway spends the 4th in BC as the level of noise in our neighborhood brings back awful memories for him.

Jun. 29, 2010, 04:32 AM
Your veterinarian will probably try to prescribe your dog some Ace. Do NOT give Ace to a noise phobic dog; it will make him or her worse, not better. To be more precise, it will probably immobilize the dog, so that the problem appears to be fixed, while the dog, who is now immobilized but still awake and still panicking is going through the living version of that nightmare everyone has at least once, of trying to run away from something terrifying but being unable to move. Ace is known to heighten responses to noise, not ameliorate them, especially in very phobic animals.

Benzodiazepines, such as Valium (diazepam) or Xanax (alprazolam), are the treatments of choice among veterinary behaviorists, who are board-certified specialists in aspects of behavior that can be treated through a combination of medical and behavioral methods. Drugs like these have true anti-anxiety effects, unlike Ace, which is related to thorazine (an anti-psychotic). Sometimes veterinarians are reluctant to prescribe benzodiazepines because they are afraid that owners will raid the dog's stash, but most vets who are up to date on newer methodologies will be totally understanding.

One of my dogs is severely noise phobic, and because I have redneck neighbors who like to shoot fireworks off for fun all summer (starting mid-June, peaking around July Fourth, and tapering off through August) he has to be on Xanax twice a day during this time period because otherwise his life is a living hell. The Xanax does not sedate him at all -- actually he seems slightly more alert and energetic, but he's old so I may just be imagining what I want to see. The only real noticeable difference in his behavior is that the explosions just make him kind of go "Oh, what was that?" instead of drooling, pacing, and attempting to hide in the tiniest spots possible (he is a 52 lb Border Collie).

Some information that you may want to take to your vet (disclaimer: these sources from my dog's behaviorist and my former colleague):

Article on noise phobias and treatment in dogs and cats by Karen Overall:

Video of Dr. Overall explaining why ace should NOT be used for noise phobia:

Medications used in behavioral medicine:

Jun. 29, 2010, 12:34 PM
Bach's Rescue Remedy works great for fireworks and thunderstorms. They don't seem to fight it like tranquilizers and it doesn't leave them doppy. They are just calmer about it.

Jun. 29, 2010, 12:36 PM
We were never so thankful the day our old beloved dog finally went deaf. It was not just fireworks, but Thunderstorms, gun shots etc.

We used a sedative.

Jun. 29, 2010, 12:40 PM
I second the Bachs Rescue Remedy. They even make it in a pet formula.

Jun. 29, 2010, 12:45 PM
Thanks! I love this board.:lol: Can you buy Bach's Rescue Remedy over the counter, say at a health food or drugstore, or is it hard to find? And MelanieC, thanks, I can use that info at the vet tomorrow.

Jun. 29, 2010, 12:57 PM
We always used a product called "Composure" for our lab who was terrified of thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. Although it sounds like the name of an adult diaper :), it's a really effective herbal formula that helps keep them calm. My guy used to pant and pace and whine and generally drive us crazy (always at night!). This stuff did the trick - took the edge off enough that he wasn't so anxious, but it didn't make him groggy.

The other thing you could try is Benadryl...get the generic kind (Diphenhydramine) to save some money and give 1 mg/lb. So, if your dog is 25 lbs, give one 25 mg pill, if he's 50 lbs, give 50 mgs and so on. Can be given every 6-8 hours. May or may not work - depends on the dog (it didn't do anything for our lab).

Jun. 29, 2010, 01:01 PM
Over the counter at most health food stores. Not sure about the pet formula, but the regular works just fine. Your dog just may not like the taste.

Jun. 29, 2010, 02:44 PM
why can't they take it over to Pennsylvania, where it's legal to buy and use anything that isn't actually nuclear? Jerks.

well, actually, they are totally illegal over here too, so don't blame us.
You can also try DAP (dog appeasing pheronome), sold in many pet stores, calms many dogs down.

Jun. 29, 2010, 02:53 PM
Going off in a totally different direction here, but if you don't want to go with drugs or herbals, etc, could you send your dog out for an overnighter in a less noisy place? Friend/family's house or local boarding kennel? (Of course, for some dogs, that might be a bigger stress than the fireworks... my big guy would hate to be sent off to a kennel, but an overnighter at my folks' house? He's in heaven - they spoil him rotten!)

Jun. 29, 2010, 07:45 PM
Composure is great, so is Rescue Remedy and DAP. Both herbal and safe with far less side effects and most sedatives. However they are one of those things things that either works awesome or doesn't do anything, so you'll have to trial and error them. I'm sure you're not going to have time to get it in but I've heard really great things about the ThunderShirt, it basically gives them a bear hug and helps to release endorphins(or something like that)

For some noise phobic dogs ace works well, and for others it doesn't. Ace does not 'immobolize' dogs, it sedates them, there is a difference. It's not like being tied down and tortured, it's like having a couple beers and just not caring as much. So for some dogs it's great if you only need a night or two of sedation. It's also not a controlled substance so it's easier to prescribe without the DEA up your rear, and it's kept on hand in most clinics, making it easier to pickup than most benzodiazapines, which have to be scripted out. And since most (most, not all, don't get defensive) pet owners wait until the last possible minute to fill meds and address this as a problem they want something quick and convienent. And they can 'blow through' ace, and if they do they will be worse than ever, which is why some people feel so strongly they should not be used in situations like this.

Also, benadryl, while sedating to people, is more likely to cause hyperactivity and hypersensitivity in animals. It also very very rarely causes sedation in animals, even though comparatively they are taking higher doses than us. I would avoid it unless you are actually using it as an antihistamine.

Vet Tech

Jun. 29, 2010, 09:51 PM
Melatonin works great for my dogs that are fearful of thunder/fireworks.

Jun. 29, 2010, 10:05 PM
well, actually, they are totally illegal over here too, so don't blame us.
You can also try DAP (dog appeasing pheronome), sold in many pet stores, calms many dogs down.

Fireworks are clearly legal in Pennsylvania. I just drove through the entire state Sunday and yesterday, and every single gas station had a giant tent outside stuffed full of fireworks for sale, with great big banners advertising them.

Jun. 30, 2010, 12:13 AM
Up until he started losing his hearing, our long haired Chihuahua was terrified of thunder and would whine and wail for hours. Vet-prescribed Ace definitely helped him get thru it and I assure you he was awake and actually quite cheerful. Dosage is always important and he got a tiny portion of an Ace tablet and not a whole one. Before using Ace, I tried Rescue Remedy but it had no impact on him. I will say that I do not think it was the noise that scared him but instead, the barometric pressure might have hurt his ears. He is fine during fireworks, no drugs needed.

Jun. 30, 2010, 01:14 AM
I use Rescue Remedy but I also try to get Ceidleigh out to as much noise as possible to work her through it. She's pretty good with it now, but it's taken time.

Jun. 30, 2010, 01:59 AM
Fireworks are clearly legal in Pennsylvania. I just drove through the entire state Sunday and yesterday, and every single gas station had a giant tent outside stuffed full of fireworks for sale, with great big banners advertising them.

Weirdly enough, you're both right, thanks to an idiotic loophole. PA does allow the use of far more fireworks than NJ (which basically doesn't allow any), but PA does restrict their sale - to Pennsylvanians. What they don't restrict is their sale to people from out of state. (ie, if you have a PA driver's license you can't buy certain sorts of fireworks, but if you have a NJ driver's license, you can buy whatever they can legally sell) State cops in NY and NJ sometimes bust the jerks coming back over the bridges, but when the fireworks dealers in PA openly and aggressively advertise in NJ - I passed one of their billboards outside Camden last week - the cops are fighting a fire with a teacup.

Jun. 30, 2010, 02:01 AM
Our vet prescribed Valium to help our nervous border collie cross cope with firecrackers and fireworks at Halloween. It was a life saver. It always made her (the dog) act like an annoying drunk though! The kind who won't sit down and shut up, and keeps elbowing you in the ribs. ;)

She went deaf a couple of years ago and I think it has removed a lot of stress from her life!

Jun. 30, 2010, 09:01 AM
back o/t ;) I may have to try Valium for Shadow. As he gets older, he is more and more terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks. He goes down to the basement and will not come back up. :no:

Jun. 30, 2010, 09:31 AM
My Border Collie is totally terrified of fireworks....Her vet had tried Valium on her own dog with disastrous results. she explained that the dog was still terrified, but unable to do anything about it.....Xanax is a MUCH better option. works like a charm :) Comfort Time is another herbal remedy that works ok too.

Jun. 30, 2010, 04:29 PM
had a giant tent outside stuffed full of fireworks for sale,
go inside and look- they're just sparklers, smoke bombs, caps, and the like, not real fireworks. If you want to REALLY be terrified, go to Nevada and see what THEY let any idiot buy.