Dogs that are afraid of fireworks suffer from noise aversion.  Help your dog cope during July 4th by creating a quiet, dark spot for him to rest in, by acting normally, or by treating with a safe, prescription drug designed to help noise averse dogs. More below.


Why is my dog afraid of loud noises?


Noise Phobia, a dog’s fear of loud noises, affects many breeds of dogs, but is most pronounced in Shepherds, herding dogs, Huskies, and Corgi’s. Typical reactions are cowering, panting, barking, destructive behavior, hiding, and escaping. Occasionally, dogs forced to endure frightening loud noises become aggressive.  It is unclear why some breeds are more fearful than others. Dogs often learn that dark clouds, wind, and rain are the antecedents to the loud thunder that terrifies them and will begin exhibiting signs of fear long before there are any loud noises.  They may also come to associate a group of clamoring children as the precursor to a home display of fireworks and firecrackers.


Cats almost universally have noise phobia and solve the problem by escaping and hiding. Owners report to us that their cats simply disappear…to unknown places within the house, or worse, outside of the house.

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Dogs and cats can runaway when things get loud


Pets that scramble for cover during fireworks, gunshots or other scary events often lose control of their senses. They do anything to escape. Terrified, they might dash across busy roadways, jump out of car windows, pull away from their collars, or bolt out of your arms. Few pet owners that report a missing pet also claim to know that it was about to happen. When pets are anxious, they behave impulsively and quickly. That’s why it’s very important that all pets are microchipped. Microchips provide a permanent, wholly safe way of identifying your pet throughout his or her lifetime even if he breaks loose of his collar and loses all of his identification tags. Microchips are suitable for use in both cats and dogs.


Microchips!  Make sure your lost pet finds his way home


Microchips are non-reactive transponders.  They do not contain an energy supply and only consist of a hair-sized coiled wire, a pinhead-sized circuit board, and a tiny antenna all encased in a capsule the size of a grain of rice.  The microchip is activated by a scanner that sends a radio signal to the microchip.  The radio waves supply the tiny device with the power it needs to send back a radio signal to the scanner containing a unique number that can be used to locate the owner of the pet.


Nearly every veterinary hospital, shelter, and civil stray dog service has a scanner that can read microchips.   Within seconds of being passed over the area of the pet’s body where the microchip is located, the scanner displays the kind of microchip that’s implanted in the pet and the unique ID number.  The information is used by the pet finder to call the manufacturer of the chip and to locate the pet owner.  It’s very important that pet owners keep their contact information up to date with the manufacturer. For more on microchips read our handout on the topic.

What to do if your dog or cat is fearful of noise


We might as well start with what not to do. Don’t reassure the anxious pet. Providing treats or reassuring your dog while they are cowering, barking or trying to flee only reassures him that he was right to take cover in the first place.


Don’t force your pet to face his fear


Don’t force your dog to man up…or dog up…and face the noise head on. Dragging the dog towards the fear, as a way to show him that it’s okay won’t teach him anything.   In fact, it will only make the situation worse.


Don’t give your pet human medication


Don’t give your dog some of your anti-anxiety medication or human drugs of any kind. Animals don’t always respond the same way to human drugs as humans do.   An extreme example of this was the horrific attack of a Connecticut woman by a chimpanese that had been given Xanex. Instead of providing the desired calming effect that the pet owner wanted for her pet chimp, the Xanex actually worsened the chimp’s reaction to fear.


Act normally


Showing your fearful pet that you have nothing to fear reassures him that he has nothing to fear.


Provide a safe, dark, quiet haven


It seems like an idiotic recommendation, but removing your pet from the terror will decrease his terror.  Dogs are natural den animals and will seek out dark, confined spaces when they are fearful.  Providing this kind of environment can reassure your dog, but it’s important to note that locking your pet in a room or crate without dialing down the frightening noise may make things worse and cause your dog to act out his anxiety in a destructive way.


Signs of Fear


Do you see these kinds of behaviors in your dog? It may be an indication of fear related to noise.

  • Pacing

  • Cowering

  • Hiding

  • Trembling

  • Refusing to eat

  • Barking

  • Being excessively clingy with you


  • Lip licking

  • Panting

  • Excessive excitability

  • Furrowed brow

  • Ears folded back

  • Frozen posture


FDA approved, non-sedating Sileo treats noise phobia in dogs


Sileo is the first and only FDA-approved medication for treating noise aversion in dogs.  After years of testing and use, Sileo has been proven to be safe and effective without other treatments or training.


Until now, drugs used to treat the anxiety needed to be given well ahead of the noise event and often caused the dog to be sedated for hours.  Sileo is applied directly into the mouth and rapidly absorbs through the gums into the blood stream.  Within minutes, Sileo calms without sedating, which allows your dog to interact normally with you and your family.  It can be administered either before the event or even after the dog begins to react fearfully.  Sileo can be administered every few hours if the storm or noise event has not passed.  In studies, 75% of dogs with noise aversion treated with Sileo remained calm when exposed to fireworks.


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Consider products like a Thundershirt


Thundershirts and other similar kinds of clothing swaddle your dog with gentle pressure. The effect is like a constant hug. Many pet owners and veterinarians report great success with treating noise phobias with Thundershirts.


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Over the years, we’ve amassed a fairly sizeable arsenal of good ideas, natural remedies, prescription drugs, and training tips that work well at managing pets with noise phobias. Reach out for help.  The contact form is below.

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