How to Calm a Dog Fearful of Fireworks

By Sunday, June 2, 2019

Dig this… a portion of this post is sponsored, but opinions are my own and 110% “pawthentic”!

Today officially marks the third anniversary of Pet Anxiety Awareness Week, an event that’s close to my heart. I launched this passion project of mine back in 2017 as a way to provide pet parents with the resources they need to help their pets. I wanted to spare as many families as possible from the heartache that I had experienced as I struggled to find solutions to my own dogs’ severe fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS).

Well, I’m happy to say that PAAW has been more successful than I ever dreamed it could be.  In just two years we’ve been able to accomplish some great things. As a result of PAAW we’ve:

  • Helped tens of thousands of pet parents find solutions to manage their pets’ FAS.
  • Educated thousands of pet parents about the symptoms associated with FAS.
  • Partnered with nearly a dozen companies striving to help dogs and cats manage FAS.

Pin Me!How to calm your dog who is fearful of fireworks.

The Fourth of July and Noise Aversion

While this is our PAAW kick-off week, this year I’ve extended this awareness event to last the entire month of June. This way, we can help as many pets as possible leading up to July 4th, which is a very stressful holiday for many dogs and cats.

When Chilly's noise aversion made him panic, he would claw the doors trying to get into the closet

Chilly’s claw marks as he tried to get into our closet.

There was a time when I used to look forward to the fireworks and festivities around the 4th of July. But when Chilly came into our lives that changed. Our family dreaded the holiday because of the effect it had on him.

The sound of fireworks would send him into a state of panic. He would leave claw marks on my closet door as he tried desperately to get in and hide. Then he would pull my dresses right off of the hangers to make himself a pile of clothes to lay in. Our veterinarian diagnosed Chilly with noise aversion, a medical condition that causes him to experience fear — even terror, during noise events, such as thunder or fireworks.

Chilly would claw dresses off of the hanger to make a pile to lay in.

Chilly would claw at my dresses to create a pile to lay on when he had anxiety due to noise.

During the first eight years of his life, we tried various treatments, some more effective than others. But then last year we discovered a solution that changed everything — SILEO® (dexmedetomidine oromucosal gel).

More about this game changer in a moment.

Diagnosing Noise Aversion

Some studies show that as many as one third1 of all dogs in the US suffer from one or more signs of noise aversion. Sadly, many dogs never receive help for this diagnosable condition.

I spoke with Sharon L. Campbell, DVM, MS, DACVIM about why noise aversion is an underdiagnosed condition. According to Dr. Campbell, one reason is that many pet parents view it as a behavior problem rather than a medical condition. They feel that the behaviors caused by noise aversion are just normal dog behavior or part of their dog’s personality.

Since these pet parents aren’t always aware that the signs they are seeing are an indication of fear, or that they could be treated medically, they may not even realize they should bring the topic up with their veterinarian. Even if their vet asks them directly if their dog is afraid of noises, they might answer that he isn’t since they may not even associate the behaviors as signs of fear.

However, a dog that suffers from noise aversion may experience the equivalent of what a human would during a panic attack. Therefore, addressing your dog’s noise aversion signs is critical to their welfare and quality of life.

The key to a successful conversation with a veterinarian is to become educated regarding the signs of noise aversion so that pet parents can speak to their veterinarian about finding an appropriate solution for their pet.

Know the Signs of Noise Aversion

Does your dog have noise aversion? Take a look at these behaviors to see if your dog may be suffering from noise aversion.

Signs of noise aversion in dogs.

While fireworks are a common trigger for noise aversion around this time of year, there are many noises that dogs can make a dog fearful, including thunder, construction, traffic, and even loud celebrations or gatherings with family and friends that don’t include fireworks.

Common signs of noise aversion include:

  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Trembling
  • Panting
  • Cowering
  • Hiding
  • Lip licking
  • Hypervigilance
  • A furrowed brow or laid back ears
  • Freezing
  • Trying to escape from the house

If left untreated, noise aversion can get worse over time. So, if you notice any of these signs in your dog, it’s really important to talk to your veterinarian. You can use this checklist to create a report to help you share important information with your veterinarian.

A Game Changer for Dogs With Noise Aversion

Early on, we involved our veterinarian in our efforts to deal with Chilly’s noise aversion, and we really valued the help and advice that he gave us. Prior to 2018, the only medication our vet had ever prescribed for Chilly was trazodone. We didn’t like how it sedated him, so we would only use it when he had severe panic attacks related to noise (usually fireworks or thunder). We also didn’t like that it made him groggy for hours after the noise had stopped.

When I first heard about SILEO, I immediately hoped that it could work for Chilly. I learned that it is an FDA-approved medication that specifically treats noise aversion in dogs. I did some research online, and what really appealed to me is that it’s very effective in calming dogs, but it does so without sedating them, unlike many other treatments. Armed with information about Chilly’s symptoms, I spoke to our vet, who felt that SILEO would be a great solution for Chilly’s fears related to noise.

We tried it and it worked beautifully. Chilly spent last July 4th awake and calm! Since then we use SILEO every time we expect thunder or fireworks.

How to Administer SILEO

Here’s how it works. SILEO is a gel that comes preloaded in a multi-dose syringe. Your veterinarian determines the dosage. All you have to do is set the dosing ring on the syringe to the correct spot and lock it in place. Then place the syringe between your dog’s cheek and gums and it will be absorbed by the mucous membranes in his mouth, so you don’t have to worry that he’ll spit it out. And you don’t have to go through the trouble of disguising it as a treat to trick him into swallowing it.

If you’d like to see how it’s done, this short video shows exactly how to administer SILEO to your dog.

Learn how to administer SILEO

When to Administer SILEO

You’ll want to give the first dose of SILEO about 30 to 60 minutes before the noise begins. So in the case of fireworks, which often begin at dark, you’ll want to administer it up to an hour before the sun goes down. Last year on the 4th of July, we gave Chilly a dose at dusk and he was cool and calm when the noise from the fireworks began. For less predictable noise events, you can also administer SILEO as soon as you hear the noise or when your dog begins to exhibit signs of fear or anxiety related to noise.

SILEO takes full effect 30-60 minutes after it’s given, and it lasts 2-3 hours. Fortunately, you can redose your dog in 2-3 hours, or up to five times per noise event, should the noise event last longer than expected and your dog begins to show signs again.

Prepare Now for the 4th of July

Remember, SILEO must be prescribed by your veterinarian, so here are some steps to put you on the path to getting your dog help before the holiday. Depending on when you start this process, getting a diagnosis and prescription can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

  1. Schedule an appointment to see your veterinarian. Noise aversion is a medical condition that can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian.
  2. Before you visit, make a list of the behaviors your dog exhibits after hearing certain noises. You can use this checklist to help you organize your information. If your dog has caused household damage or harm to himself during those periods, take photographs to share with your veterinarian.
  3. At your visit, be sure to share any and all observances, photos, videos, or other information that can help your veterinarian make a diagnosis.
  4. If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with noise aversion, he or she may recommend SILEO. If not, be sure to ask about it.

Thanks to SILEO, the 4th of July and other noise events aren’t nearly as stressful for Chilly or for us!

This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions and anecdotes are my own, and I never promote any products or brands I don’t believe in. ~Petfully yours, Kristen

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not use SILEO® in dogs with severe cardiovascular disease, respiratory, liver or kidney diseases, or in conditions of shock, severe debilitation, or stress due to extreme heat, cold or fatigue or in dogs hypersensitive to dexmedetomidine or to any of the excipients. SILEO should not be administered in the presence of preexisting hypotension, hypoxia, or bradycardia. Do not use in dogs sedated from previous dosing. SILEO has not been evaluated in dogs younger than 16 weeks of age or in dogs with dental or gingival disease that could have an effect on the absorption of SILEO. SILEO has not been evaluated for use in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs or for aversion behaviors to thunderstorms. Transient pale mucous membranes at the site of application may occur with SILEO use. Other uncommon adverse reactions included emesis, drowsiness or sedation. Handlers should avoid direct exposure of SILEO to their skin, eyes or mouth. Failure to lock the ring-stop on the syringe before dosing SILEO could potentially lead to an accidental overdose. Always review INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE before dispensing and dosing. See full Prescribing Information.

Sileo® is a trademark owned by Orion Corporation Orion Pharma Animal Health. It is manufactured by Orion Corporation and distributed by Zoetis under license from Orion Corporation Orion Pharma Animal Health.

Kristen Levine has a consulting relationship with Zoetis.

Click here to get SILEO's free checklist

1 The Harris Poll: Custom Motion Sickness and NoiseAversion Omnibus Pet Owner  Quantitative Research Report, December 2018