Firework-phobic pooch
December 29, 2003 4:33 AM   Subscribe

How to calm a dog that hates fireworks, on a night when fireworks will be going off for many hours? (more inside)

New Year's Eve is the one night of the year here in Sweden when everyone goes nuts with fireworks - starting from mid-afternoon on the 31st, culminating with the big municipal display at midnight, then continuing on until three o'clock or so the next morning. Our dog hates the noise: last year he variously panted, skulked, fretted, and barked his head off for hours. The internet suggests strategies varying from distraction (difficult to sustain for 10-12 hours) to medicating with valium (which I'd be reluctant to try, supposing I could obtain any doggy diazepams to begin with). Has anyone here had success with soothing a dog under these circumstances - and do herbal remedies like chamomile actually work in cases like these?
posted by misteraitch to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Often the best thing under these circumstances is to place the dog in a (smallish) area away from the noise and with little activity. I've had success with a comfortable room in the basement. Make sure there is lots of food and water (try to put the water in something that the dog can't knock over) and put lots of blankets and chew toys in the room. The idea behind the small quiet room is that even if the dog can hear the noise, he can keep track of what's happening in his immediate surroundings and so is less confused/concerned.
Since it's for such a long time you'll have to take him out to "do his business" and give him some love, but don't be afraid to put him back in there. It's best for him, even if you wouldn't want to be in there.
posted by nprigoda at 5:42 AM on December 29, 2003

When I lived in the center of firework-hell in Amsterdam (Red Light District), I used to calm my two cats with a homepathic 'sleepydrug' that you could pick up at the nearest pet shop. It wasn't strong enough to knock the cats out, they just got dozy and very very calm, as if they were on valium. I'd arrange a bed for them as far away from the windows as possible and they'd relax despite the massive fireworks outside. Dom har nog sånt I Sverige också.
posted by dabitch at 5:46 AM on December 29, 2003

(I tried finding the brand on the web, but I can't for the life of me remember the name. It did contain chamomile and various other herbs...)
posted by dabitch at 6:05 AM on December 29, 2003

I had a dog like that, as he got older he got deathly scared of fireworks and thunder storms. My vet prescribed me some valium for him. Quarter of a tablet (~80lb dog) and he was fine. The effects were barely noticable, he wasn't all wobbly and drugged out - just calm, and not terrified of the noise.
posted by duckstab at 6:24 AM on December 29, 2003

We used to give our dog acepromazine to sedate her for long car rides, but she started having very mild seizures every month or so, and the vet recommended we stop using it. Generally there are no major side effects, as long as your dog is healthy. I would check with your vet.

In place of acepromazine, the vet recommended we give her a Children's Benadryl, which works fairly well.
posted by arco at 6:45 AM on December 29, 2003

My dogs (an old Mini Poodle, a middle aged Lhasa Apso and a young Malamute) all hate fireworks and even firecrackers and cherry bombs. I found a chewable "calming tablet" at a pet supply store, and for holidays with a known fireworks component, I give them all a good dose, then follow the basic instructions that nprigoda outlined.

One thing that I found enhanced the effectiveness of the confinement calming strategy was to play some soft music for them. In this case, it was a "sleepytime" mix cd I had made for my kids which is a mix of quiet instrumental piano and Enya style celtic stuff. Having the music in their immediate vicinity seemed to give them something else to concentrate on, and seemed to help.

Before giving the dogs any kind of drug, even an over-the-counter calmer from a pet store, I'd consult a vet just to be safe. The last thing that you want is to give the dog something which causes a bad reaction and then have to go rushing out to find an emergency vet on a night full of scary noises and drunks on the streets.
posted by Dreama at 6:53 AM on December 29, 2003

we got phenobartital for our little scary-de cat
posted by clavdivs at 6:53 AM on December 29, 2003

My wife's dog likes Billy Holiday, and company - but lots of good suggestions here.
posted by troutfishing at 6:59 AM on December 29, 2003

We've used "Rescue Remedy," we've used tincture of Valerian root (DOGS only, in very small doses), and we've also used half a diphenhydromine (benedryl) in some cheese (this made them the most sleepy). I'm not a vet, but those things have worked for us, and our dogs don't like fireworks in a major way.
posted by answergrape at 8:08 AM on December 29, 2003

Oh, and the pug likes Opera, preferably a nice tenor.
posted by answergrape at 8:09 AM on December 29, 2003

We give our dogs some non-drug chewables that we get from the petstore. It is just a concentration of things that make mammals sleepy. Hops, barley, and tryptophan. Works for us. Also calms them down when we have parties.
posted by thirteen at 8:46 AM on December 29, 2003

"Often the best thing under these circumstances is to place the dog in a (smallish) area away from the noise and with little activity."

I'll second that. Our dog stays in her crate with her favorite blanket and chew toy during the Independence Day fireworks. The crate is in my son's room, and he turns the stereo on to provide a little background noise.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:17 AM on December 29, 2003

Thanks to you all for your suggestions: making a suitable hidey-hole would be difficult, owing to the layout of our apartment... but I'll definitely check out which of the herbal options are stocked at the local pet stores. Hopefully it'll help this chap (and us) have a less stressful New Year's night.
posted by misteraitch at 2:01 PM on December 29, 2003

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