Things that go BOOM! in the Summertime: Thunderstorms and Fireworks

Summertime can really push the limits for many dogs with noise fears. Thunderstorms and fireworks alike can cause these dogs to shake, hide in bathtubs and closets, destroy things in the house, and in the worst cases, jump out of windows. Many of us just want to cuddle with our petrified buddy, although this is not possible when the thunderstorms occur while we’re at work.

We have many tricks up our sleeves for ameliorating dogs’ fears during these events. Here are some of them:

  1. Composure by VetriScience. This is a natural and safe calming supplement that comes in a chewable form that dogs like. Its active ingredient is L-theanine, which is found in green tea and is what gives you that calm feeling after drinking it.  We carry this supplement at WAH.
  2. Tight wraps like ThunderShirts. These take about 10 minutes to calm your dog. The ThunderShirt company claims a “dramatic calming effect for over 80% of dogs.” You can order this on-line.
  3. Melatonin. This is a hormone that some people with insomnia take. It appears to have a beneficial effect in calming dogs with thunderstorm phobias. It is recommended to give it one hour before a storm for the most benefit. This is generally available at most stores that sell nutritional supplements.
  4. Adaptil collar, diffuser, and spray. This is a product that mimics the natural pheromones that a bitch produces when she is nursing her pups. This hormone has a calming effect. The company is marketing it with thunderstorms and fireworks as indications for its use. We carry this product at WAH.
  5. Addendum 6/26/13:  We’ve just learned of a product out of the U.K. called “de-stress and calming” by Pet Remedy.  Its active ingredient is valerian in a low concentration and it works via aromatherapy.  Anecdotally, many of Dr. Epstein’s U.K. colleagues rave about this product.  It is available as a plug-in diffuser as well as in spray mist form.  You can order it on line but be sure you get the plug-in prongs that fit U.S. outlets!
  6. Addendum 8/20/13: We have the product and the preliminary reviews are very favorable! We are now carrying the aerosol plug-ins, a large spray bottle, and a tiny spray bottle.

Some dogs will do well with just one of the above measures, while others may require two or more. All are compatible with one another.

We do not generally recommend reaching for sedatives like acepromazine first, unless there is a real concern that the dog will harm himself or be destructive to your house. Most sedatives do nothing to relieve the fear, but they instead make the dog so drowsy that he will not be able to express his reaction as effectively.

At Wilmington Animal Hospital, we see many patients that suffer from noise fears and phobias. We are happy to discuss management of your dog’s specific thunderstorm, fireworks, and noise phobias. Please visit our website for more information on how to reach us: