Monday, 17 June 2019 17:08

Fireworks, Water Safety, Traveling

Written by  Dr Mindy Cohan
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Many people question my patriotism when they hear me say, “I’m dreading the 4th of July.” As a history buff, the day does have sad undertones when you consider that both presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams passed on July 4, 1826 (25 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence). It is, however, the association with fireworks that causes my dread of this American holiday. Fireworks are extremely frightening not just for my dog Jem, but affect nearly half of all dogs. Cats can also be fearful of loud noises such as fireworks, thunderstorms, construction and backfires, but are less affected than dogs.

Thunderstorms are different than other events merely associated with noise. Dogs often become fearful before the storm arrives.  Dogs begin to react when they sense a change in the barometric pressure or when they hear and see rain and wind. Both thunder and lightning associated with storms can dramatically affect dogs. Surprisingly, not all dogs with storm phobias are affected by loud noises and not all dogs afraid of loud noises are sensitive to storms.

Noise phobias are not only stressful for the afflicted dog or cat, they can be very unsettling for the pet parent. Watching your pet in emotional distress is heart breaking. Pet owners often feel helpless when it comes to comforting an upset dog or cat. Common symptoms of noise phobia include:

  • Shaking/trembling
    Destructive behavior

Some dogs will show subtler signs such as lip licking, yawning, or just remaining stationary out of fear.

If your dog or cat is very fearful of loud noises or storms, consult your pet’s veterinarian. Suggestions can be offered to help minimize your pet’s anxiety. One strategy is avoidance. By avoiding the offensive stimulus, your pet will have nothing to fear. However, since we cannot control the weather, avoid neighbors who light fireworks, or prevent local construction, this is easier said than done.

As pet owners, we can take measures to minimize our pet’s fear. For example, when fireworks or storms are expected, keep your pets inside and play the television or radio at a loud volume to drown out the offending noise. Some dogs can be distracted by providing a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter. Allow your pet to hide wherever it feels comfortable. Never scold a pet or try to make it leave a secure hiding location! Many dogs seek shelter in bathrooms and specifically bathtubs.

During storms or fireworks, try to engage your dog in a playful game or obedience skill to redirect its focus. Nonprescription medications can be tried. There are pheromone products such as Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats that can be helpful. These products mimic the natural chemicals released by a nursing mother dog or cat and provide a sense of calm for pets. “Rescue Remedy” is a natural product that can also create a calming effect for stressed pets. A “Thunder Shirt” is a snuggly fitting coat that “hugs” the pet and gives a sense of security.

If non-medication products do not provide enough stress relief, a veterinarian should be consulted to discuss medications for your anxious pet. There are many different medications that can be tried, but not all can resolve noise phobias. Some pets benefit from a multimodal approach. Finding the solution to a pet’s anxiety requires time and patience and often the best plan is discovered by trial and error.

Summer Vacation Travel with Your Dog

Within recent years, dogs have enjoyed an elevated status as members of the family. It is only natural that they be included on family vacations. If you plan to bring your furry companion on a family trip, there are many considerations.  

Before hitting the road:

·       Be sure your pet is comfortable in car (not anxious, not prone to car sickness).

·       Seat covers protect car fabric and prevent dog from slipping.

·       Safety harness or travel carriers help to secure dog in case of sudden stops or accidents.

·       Keep cats in carrier for their safety as well as preventing driver from being distracted.

·       If feeding ahead of time, provide a very small meal.

·       Do not allow dog to stick head out of window - particles can get into eyes, other flying objects could be dangerous

 Items to pack:

·       regular food, treats, dishes, bed, toys, fresh water

·       leash or harness

·       medications (heartworm preventative, flea/tick medications, seizure medication, other important daily medicine)

·       bland food and medications in case pet has a sensitive stomach (consult your dog’s veterinarian)

·       research phone numbers of local vets, emergency clinics in case needed

·       Bring number for ASPCA Poison Control 1-888-426-4435

·       be sure pet has ID tag with cell phone number, temporary ID tags can be made with address of where you are vacationing

·       recent photo of pet (in case it gets lost)

·       proof of vaccines and medical records

·       grooming supplies (shampoo, brush)

·       carpet cleaning product in case of accidents

·       poop bags

First Aid Kits are recommended:

bandages, Telfa pads, gauze, triple antibiotic ointment styptic powder for broken nails digital thermometer and lubricating jelly hydrogen peroxide /saline solution for cleaning wounds


Travel plans can be very exciting and it may be easy to become distracted from making the necessary arrangements for pets prior to your vacation. Be sure to make arrangements for pets to be taken care of in your home, to stay with a friend, or to stay at a boarding facility. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!   BOARDING KENNELS BOOK UP QUICKLY AT HOLIDAY TIMES AND IN THE SUMMER MONTHS.   MAKE SURE YOUR PET SITTER WILL BE AVAILABLE WHILE YOU PLAN TO BE ON VACATION.

If leaving a pet at home, be sure to choose a reliable pet sitter.

Make sure he/she is well acquainted with your pets   

Leave a written list of instructions for sitter.  

- note amount of food to be fed, normal feeding times, number of treats/snacks

- note how often and at what times dog goes out to go to the bathroom

- note any common problems to monitor (cat with urinary problems, pets with seizures, arthritis, diarrhea, etc)

If leaving pets in kennel:

• Get referrals to make sure facility is reputable.

• Make sure that if kennel is not affiliated with vet hospital, they will be able to provide medical care in case of emergency.

• Make a scheduled and surprise visit to kennel to evaluate

• Bring pet’s favorite toys, blankets, and regular food to avoid likelihood of vomiting or diarrhea

Whether leaving pet with sitter or in kennel, ALWAYS LEAVE EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS

GIVE PET SITTER CONSENT TO APPROVE MEDICAL TREATMENT IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.   You can call vet office to let them know pet sitter has authority to okay any treatment needed. You can even leave credit card number on file.



Water Safety

Although many breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs seem to have a natural affinity for water and the ability to swim, not all dogs like water. Many cannot swim and are at risk for drowning. During the warmer months, extra precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of dogs around pools, lakes and the ocean.

Never assume that your dog can swim, even if it is a breed known for its swimming prowess. Always test your dog first in shallow water. This will enable you to assess both your dog’s comfort and skills in the water. Never force your dog into water if he/she is afraid!

Even if your dog is an experienced swimmer, never let your dog swim unattended. Dogs do not realize when they are becoming tired and might not have enough energy to swim safely out of the water. Always fit your dog with a life vest when taking it on a boat (this includes kayak or canoe).


All pools should be surrounded by a fence. This will ensure that both dogs and small children cannot fall in when unattended.  Be sure your pool cover is secure and does not retain water.  Teach your dog where the exit steps are located and practice having your dog exit the pool at the steps.    Pool chemicals can be irritating to the skin of some dogs, so rinse these pets off with a hose or in a tub after a swim. 


Discourage your dog from drinking salt water.  Bring fresh water to keep your pup well hydrated. If there are warning of strong riptides or sea pests that sting, keep your  dog out of the water.  While sea glass is an exciting find and is dull and polished, be careful of fresh, sharp glass fragments which can cause cuts to dogs’ paws.   Some dogs love to eat smelly, gross things like rotting fish. Keep a close watch on your dog to avoid the ingestion of beach items that will later cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Read 5490 times Last modified on Monday, 01 July 2019 15:43