Fourth of July Fireworks Phobia

Dr. Lisa Feinstein DVM MPH


New Year’s is here. If your dog has a fireworks and loud noise phobia, you should be prepared. Some dogs get so scared that they can harm themselves and cause damage to the house and their surroundings.

What can you do to help your dog? If your dog is young, sometimes your dog will grow up without developing a fear of fireworks. If your dog and you are together on Fourth of July and there are fun people and food that day, the noise may not be remembered as a scary thing. However, the loud boom of fireworks, especially at night and home alone, can be remembered and reinforced as a very scary event for most dogs. It seems to worsen as these dogs age.

Fortunately you can plan for fireworks, unlike thunderstorms, which can have their own booms and shudders without much warning. If you are a naturalist and want to try natural products before medicating your dog, you could try a thunder jacket and an Adaptil collar, which releases calming pheromones. Put these on your dog 12 hours before the fireworks begin. You can even try them out days before Fourth of July to see their effect. They are safe but not reliable for fireworks or thunder phobia.

Most dogs with fireworks phobias will need to be sedated. It is best to sedate your dog two hours before the first fireworks begin. You could try Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) at a dose of 25 mg tablet per 25 pounds. It is over-the-counter and safe (make sure there is no stimulant in it and just pure Diphenhydramine). However, Diphenhydramine/Benadryl rarely works to adequately relax and sedate your dog.

Veterinarians dispense a tranquilizer tablet called Acepromazine. It will reliably sedate your dog for 8 hours. It is relatively safe, but in geriatric or heart patient animals or those sensitive to anesthetics, Acepromazine should be used cautiously.

Another medication is the Benzodiazepine family (Xanax and Valium). They can work as well and are safer choices for geriatric or heart patients. However, Benzodiazepines don’t always reliably work, even at doses much higher than a person takes.

There is a new medication for dogs with noise aversion, Sileo. It is dexdetomodine in a gel that you apply into your dog’s mouth between the cheek and gum. It works within a half hour and gives several hours of sedation. Testing has shown it to be effective, but it is not recommended for use in geriatric or heart patient dogs (just like Acepromazine).

So to sum up, Fourth of July fireworks phobia can be planned for and your dog can get pre-treated so as to not undergo the stress and fear. There are many options, but the most reliable and effective drugs you will need to get from your veterinarian and some have to be used cautiously in older or cardiac patients.