I believe prescription medications should be given to fearful dogs as a last resort, but we all have to make our own decisions about what’s best for our dogs.
If you think your dog may benefit from medication during fireworks or thunderstorms, I recommend you talk with a veterinarian to discuss all your options.
It’s also a good idea to get a second opinion because some anti-anxiety medications for pets are controversial.
Medication for dogs during fireworks
If you’re trying to help your dog overcome a fear of fireworks, you’ve probably tried all of these options:
- Behavior modification such as slowly desensitizing the dog to loud noises. I go over that a bit in this post.
- Dog appeasing pheromone diffusers
- Natural options such as Rescue Remedy (pictured) or Canine Calm
Today, I want to focus on medications for dogs and whether or not to medicate a fearful dog during fireworks.
If you have ever given medication to your fearful dog, please share your experience (good or bad) in the comments if you think it will help others.
Non-prescription medications such as Benadryl
Before she prescribes medications to fearful dogs, Dr. Danel Grimmett, a veterinarian with Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Edmond, Okla., encourages dog owners to try other options first. One of those options is non-prescription medications.
“Benadryl or Dramamine can gently calm a pet with mild to moderate storm anxiety if the administration is supervised by their family veterinarian,” Grimmett said.
These are often used to combat car anxiety or motion sickness as well, she said. See my post: Can Benadryl help a dog during fireworks?
I have given Benadryl to my dog for travel anxiety and to foster dogs for separation anxiety, and I do believe it helped calm them. I’m not sure that it actually eased their anxiety, but it at least made them drowsy and therefore less likely to bark and whine.
If you decide to give Benadryl or Dramamine to your dog, make sure to contact a veterinarian first for the proper dose. Weight is not the only factor in determining the proper dose because dogs process some medications differently than we do.
Prescription medications for calming a dog during fireworks
Personally, I don’t see myself ever giving a dog prescription medications for calming purposes. Some prescription medications are classified as tranquilizers, and I do not like the idea of tranquilizing a dog unless absolutely necessary.
If you are wondering if prescription medications are right for your dog, make sure to ask your dog’s vet several questions such as:
- What are the side effects of the drug you are recommending?
- How far in advance do I need to give this to my dog in order for it to be effective? (One hour? One week?)
- Will the drug actually decrease my dog’s fear or will it just leave her immobile (and still afraid)?
- How long will it work?
- How does the drug work?
- What is the cost?
- Are there any other options you can suggest?
Grimmett said she does prescribe medications to fearful dogs in certain situations if other options have not helped.
“Pets with extreme storm anxiety can hurt themselves, damage their environment and possibly act out toward their owners,” she said. “If all other options have been exhausted, then I will turn to prescription medications.”
Any of you who have very fearful dogs know what she is talking about. For example, my parents’ dog Elsie will sometimes paw at her kennel to try to escape during fireworks. She has injured her paws while doing so.
I have also had foster dogs that succeeded in breaking out of their kennels due to their fears of being alone. One of these dogs then proceeded to begin tearing apart my door while I was at work. (Talk about stressful for everyone involved!)
There are many different options available as far as prescription medications for fearful dogs. Make sure to do your own research and discuss all options with your dog’s vet if you decide to go this route.
Two of the medications Grimmett said she will sometimes prescribe for dogs with anxiety around fireworks include Acepromazine and Diazepam.
Acepromazine is a cost-effective prescription medication classified as a tranquilizer, according to Grimmett. She said it should always be administered under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.
“This drug is very effective and very powerful,” she said. “Therefore in our practice, we insist on the pet being kept indoors in a temperature-controlled, confined area with constant supervision.”
The drug works by modifying the chemicals in the pet’s brain to change its behavior, according to 1-800-PetMeds®, which sells Acepromazine and is a sponsor of my blog. The company also carries natural options.
Learn more about anti-anxiety medications from 1-800-PetMeds® HERE.
None of the drugs most commonly used in reducing a dog’s fear of fireworks have actually been proven to work in relieving that fear, according to PetMeds. The drugs also have possible side effects such as lethargy and sedation.
For example, the company said Acepromazine could “sensitize your dog to sound, potentially making the problem worse.”
This doesn’t mean dogs should not be given tranquilizers during fireworks. It just means each dog owner needs to ask the right questions and make the best choice for his own dog.
Diazepam (Valium) is a sedative and muscle relaxer, according to Grimmett. She said it is effective and safe in treating storm anxiety. However, it is a controlled drug and requires registration with the Drug Enforcement Administration whenever it is prescribed.
Talk to your dog’s vet about the right option for your dog
The above are just a few of the many prescription options available for fearful or anxious dogs. There are other options not even mentioned here, and your dog’s vet will be able to help you sort through all the options for your unique dog.
If any of you have tried medications for your fearful dog, let us know your experience. It helps to hear from others.
Have you ever given your dog medication for anxiety issues?