Medications for dogs during fireworks

Medication for dogs during fireworks and when to use it

I believe prescription medications should be given to calm 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 anxiety 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 dogs are controversial.

*Get my tips on how to help a dog who’s scared of fireworks. Click Here.

Medication for dogs during fireworks

In this post:

What can I give my dog for fireworks anxiety?

If you’re trying to help your dog overcome a fear of fireworks, you’ve probably tried all of these options:

Rescue Remedy

You can read my previous posts for more info on training, thundershirts and natural options here and here.

Today, I want to focus on medications for dogs and whether or not to medicate a fearful dog during fireworks or thunderstorms.

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 during fireworks

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 over the counter medications such as Benadryl.

Over the counter medications for dogs during fireworks

“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 over the counter medications 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.

Benadryl for dogs dosage

If you decide to give Benadryl or Dramamine to calm 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.

The general dosage of Benadryl for dogs is 1mg per pound of body weight 2-3 times per day but it’s best to consult with your vet first.

*Get my tips on how to help a dog who’s scared of fireworks. Click Here.

Prescription medications for calming a dog during fireworks

Ace the black Lab mix with his ball

Is there anxiety medication for dogs?

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 anti anxiety medication 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.”

Medication for dogs during fireworks

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 calming 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.

Medication for dogs during fireworks

Acepromazine tranquilizer for dogs scared of fireworks or thunder

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. The company also carries natural options.

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 or thunder. It just means each dog owner needs to ask the right questions and make the best choice for his own dog.

Diazepam sedative for dogs scared of fireworks or thunderstorms

Diazepam (Valium) is a sedative and muscle relaxer, according to Grimmett. She said it is an effective and safe sedative in treating a dog’s storm anxiety.

However, it is a controlled drug and requires registration with the Drug Enforcement Administration whenever it is prescribed.

What can I give my dog for storm anxiety?

You can use any of the dog anxiety medications or products we have mentioned to help your dog with storm anxiety just as you would with fireworks anxiety. It is the same concept.

Options include:

  • Over the counter medication like Benadryl
  • Prescription dog tranquilizers like Acepromazine
  • Natural calming remedies like Rescue Remedy or ADAPTIL

One challenge with thunderstorms (depending on where you live) is that they are a bit more unpredictable compared to fireworks. For example, you might be gone for work and a thunderstorm rolls through late morning while your dog is home alone.

For some people, it’s helpful to put a Thundershirt on their dog whenever the dog is home alone in the summer months. This might help a dog with mild storm anxiety.

If you know a storm is likely to roll through, you could also give your dog Benadryl or a prescription sedative before the storm begins.

Talk to your dog’s vet about the right anxiety medication option for your dog

The above are just a few of the many prescription options available for calming a fearful or anxious dogs.

There are other options for calming a dog not even mentioned here, and your dog’s vet will be able to help you sort through all the options for your unique dog.

*Get my tips on how to help a dog who’s scared of fireworks. Click Here.

Have you ever given your dog medication for anxiety issues?

In the comments, let us know what worked or didn’t work to calm your dog during fireworks.

Medication for dogs during fireworks

Related posts:

Does the Thundershirt really work?

What do do if a dog is scared of Thunderstorms?

Does Rescue Remedy really work?

Adaptil for dogs scared of fireworks

34 thoughts on “Medication for dogs during fireworks and when to use it”

  1. Good summary – thanks for sharing. I’ve never had a dog with these types of fears – thank goodness. It must be really difficult to deal with. You have to do what’s needed to keep your dog safe.

  2. My dog had very bad separation anxiety when we first got him. He’d scream and cry when we left, and even though I’m a huge advocate of crate training it just didn’t work with this dog. He’d hurt himself when I tried to crate him, even though I was doing everything “right”. My vet actually gave me some medication to calm him down when I mentioned the problem to him. I was leery of it, but I was willing to try just about anything at that point because I could barely leave the room the dog was in, and he needed to be calm as he was recovering from a broken leg. The meds didn’t seem to help, then I looked it up and found out it was a human anti-depressant. One that I’d actually taken myself. One that had horrible side effects and hadn’t helped at all. I weened him off of it immediately. It took months and a lot of patients, but eventually his separation anxiety got better. It’s still not GONE, even after a year, but it’s manageable.

    I’d never knew some medications leave a dog immobile but still terrified. What a disturbing thought. I don’t plan to tranquilize my crazy dog, but knowing his temperament I’m going with “never say never”, so I will ask about that if I ever get a prescription.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for sharing this. Good example! I was thinking that separation anxiety may be an example of an exception where I might actually give a dog medication. Sorry to hear it didn’t really help your dog.

      In some cases, you really just run out of options. For example, I chose to return certain foster dogs to the rescue group due to their anxiety issues. I simply could not accommodate for their needs. But I was lucky to be working with a group that had other foster homes available that were better suited for handling separation anxiety. What if the only option is to turn the dog over to a shelter or give the dog medication? I would have to choose the medication in some cases, I assume. Thankfully, I’ve never had to face that decision.

      So glad your dog has shown lots of improvement. I’m sure it’s a work in progress.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It’s definitely controversial, and anyone who considers using it on a dog should consult with a vet to make sure it really is the best choice. It’s not something I would use either unless absolutely necessary.

  3. My dog actually injured himself last night! We can see a trail of bloody pawprints where he was pacing all night. Unfortunately, lots of families all around our neighborhood had fireworks going all night. To the vet we go : (

  4. I had a rescue greyhound who was terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks. I worked to desensitize him, was always calm myself, but nothing ever worked. The vet prescribed acepromazine, but it left him paralyzed and terrified. He normally was an A+ on a leash, but if he heard fireworks or thunder he would drag me home. All we could do for him was let him hide in a bathroom or closet.

  5. One of my parents’ dogs has severe thunderstorm anxiety. Living in south Florida, we get storms constantly. The thundershirt helps with lesser storms (just rain), but he has to have medication anytime there’s a severe storm. Otherwise, he will shake and pant incessantly and he can’t settle down, sometimes for hours. He gets Xanax (alprazolam) in these situations. I would much, much rather medicate him then leave him a nervous, anxiety-racked wreck, and alprazolam works to remove the panicky feeling as opposed to just sedating the dog. He has taken Ace in the past for long car rides (also a major cause of anxiety and panic for him), and I’m not a fan as it does nothing to allay the underlying fear.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Good information to know! I’m glad you’ve found some options that seem to help your parents’ dog.

  6. Scott Wollins

    I cannot get my head around medicating my dog for a fear-based response – Tofi just needs to be indoors or in the car during thunderstorm – so her issue may be less severe – she will panic if out in open area – like a beach – she does better walking through a forest – so it seems her needs are to be covered or to be surrounded by nature – not ‘exposed’ out in the open – perhaps I am projecting my bias on her – I also only take medications at very last resort – the symptoms I see in other posts seem much more severe – for Tofi – she just needs to be indoors preferably next to me and under the table – I guess that isn’t too much to ask for something she cannot understand and frightens her – I am trying to be upbeat, and try treats during the storms – but generally she isn’t interested in anything but waiting it out in what she perceives is safe position. In Florida we get thunderstorms nearly daily this time of year – having to accept big change in our outdoor life – staying closer to home – and making sure I leash her at the first sign of thunder – not used to this as my first dog is 100% immune to fear of storms – this is a good example how getting another dog can compromise the life of your first dog – but we are a family – we will cope – and without drugs – at least that is our strategy.

  7. Last year I had to give both my dogs Acepromazine, they both went to sleep about 30 minutes before the fireworks started on the fourth and slept through the whole thing, they were not frightened throughout because they never heard it. It is definitely a better option than them being scared, with hearts racing and not being able to breathe due to fear. My vet prescribed it and I know that he wouldn’t give me anything that he thought would harm my dogs, they are my babies.

  8. My vet recommended 6 mg of Melatonin for thunderstorms & fireworks. The 6 mg was too much for my 47 lb dog, but 3 mg of the Melatonin works perfectly. It just calms her down enough without drugging her. I give it to her about a half hour before I think it will be needed. It might be a good thing to include in your next article on this subject.

    1. Good point!

      A lot of dog owners overdo medications without any need.

      Everybody should try to calm the dog down without meds, and use them only if necessary…

  9. Kathleen Glielmi

    I have used Benadryl and thunder shirts, calming collars and sprays for thunder and fireworks. This helps a bit, but in NC, fireworks and gunfire are supreme. I have had to give 2 of mine 1/2 to a whole Xanax(same dose for human),it helps them relax and sometimes fall asleep.

  10. I have a Jack Russel with low tolerance for any stress. He just started having seizures about 18 months ago. I used Diazepam for any stressful situation. Fireworks, thunderstorm, etc. I’m told they are not frequent enough for anti seizure meds. It’s bad for his liver.
    I am concerned about the dependency issue and long term use as the seizure do at time come frequently.
    I have had discussions about medical marijuana with my Vet. I live in PA so it’s legal here but I don’t know if that includes my dog.
    And I know it can be purchased on line but I have no idea what I’m getting and there are so many scams out there.
    Do you have any information on marijuana or my concerns about the Valium, or possible more natural alternative.

  11. I have an 8 pound
    Yorkshire Terrier. I gave her approx 8mg Equate Allergy Relief (diphenhydramine) on 7/3/2017 at 11pm…She seems much better. It is 12:37am now 7/4th…No fireworks going off now, but it definitely helped Yorkie while they were. She is 10 years old and I just had to try something.Fireworks and Storms cause her to shake so bad the entire queen bed shakes.She paces.Pants.Shakes.Hides and holds her ears back.With the 8mg she stayed calm, stopped panting, stopped pacing.She did prefer to stay in bathroom but layer in her bed and rested.I kept close eye on her would of liked her to stay by me but she would not.

  12. Last year 3 mg of Melatonin worked. This year the vet recommendation of 6 mg of Melatonin was necessary (for a 47 pound dog). We also had the house closed up, portable fans on, radios on with music playing, and a thunder shirt on. Those clamed her down, but she was still shaking some. She loves to pop bubbles, so I got the idea to play bubbles with her in the house. It worked amazingly well. We played bubbles for 30 minutes, all the while the fireworks were going off, and she was delightfully distracted.

  13. This was Spirit’s first 4th of July. He was scared to death. We put him on his leash and took him out on the deck and held him tight and had him looking up in the sky at them. At first he was petrified. Then as they went on he just sat their watching them. When they were over, I won’t lie, he was happy to get in the house. Will try the same thing next year. It worked for our last golden and I am hoping it will work this time, too.

  14. We have used Rescue Remedy for our dogs for around three years. When it is storming, our dogs get four drops on a treat. If we know something is going to occur, fireworks at dark, we will try to get the jump on it, and give them some 10 to 15 minutes before they take place. Wonderful stuff and it doesn’t dope them up.

  15. Where i live the fireworks last on and off for 3 months and my poor dog suffers so bad, and is so scared. We use plug in, calm collar, zylkene tablets, she is still shaking and panting!!…All black out blinds are shut, tv’s are on, poor beau-belle runs from one made up den to the other in our wardrobes and under beds, under duvet covers to try and feel safe…..Reading all the above comments I was thinking of taking away the Zylkene and trying Rescue Remedy or maybe Benadryl could some tell me how long does the affect last and could it be use for that length of time? Thank you

    1. In my experience the Benadryl has a fairly mild affect that lasts 3 hours or so. I’m not sure if it will make a difference for your dog but would be worth a try! Good luck, sorry to hear your dog is so scared.

  16. Gretchen Hayward

    I have a Pitbull that is scared of everything unfortunately! I have tried several things to help her. My vet suggested a product called Composure. I give this to her during thunderstorms, but fireworks are a whole different ballgame! I do have to sedate her as she is a wreck without it. It is a very small dose, but it does the trick for her.

  17. Victoria Scheerbaum

    My 9 yr old Olde English Bulldogge has Addison’s Disease and Stress can be life threatening. She is terrified of fireworks. Our vet gave us a product called Sileo. It is for noise aversion in dogs. It seems to work well enough. It is prescription. Check it out. Hope it helps some scared dogs.

  18. I tried Benedryl years ago during 4th of July for my Lab, but she was drowsy and lethargic for days. She is now 12 yrs old and gets anxious, panting, drooling and hides under the chair when the fireworks begin to pop. NOW we give her a few drops of CBD OIL and she is calm and lies down and gets through the holiday with no after effects. By the way, we also give her a few drops every day and it gives her much relief from her arthritic hind legs which are stiff and hard to move. There are no side effects. There is Veterinary grade CBD Oil and also regular (people kind). The Vet grade is twice the price. She and I now both take it in the morning for our arthritis. I checked with the vet and she had no objection…as a matter of fact she has vet products on her shelf that contain CBD.

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