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Medication for dogs during fireworks and when to use it

I used to believe prescription medication for dogs during fireworks should be given as a last resort. But that was because I did not have a dog who was afraid of fireworks.

I give my weimaraner Remy a prescription anti anxiety medication before fireworks begin every 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. This is no big deal and helps him hunker down in his indoor kennel.

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. We’re lucky to have so many options these days, and I will go over many of them in this article.

*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

All of the above are great but I want to focus on medications for dogs during fireworks or thunderstorms when other options are not helping enough.

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.

Over the counter medications for dogs during fireworks – Benadryl

First, let’s look at over the counter options.

Before she prescribes medications to fearful dogs, Dr. Danel Grimmett, a veterinarian with Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Edmond, Okla., encourages dog owners to try non-prescription medication 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 Ace 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 during fireworks?

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? Several hours?)
  • 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.”

Any of you who have very fearful dogs know what she is talking about. For example, my parents’ golden retriever Elsie would sometimes paw at her kennel to try to escape during fireworks. She injured her paws while doing so.

Medication for dogs during fireworks

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.

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

Some prescription medications are classified as tranquilizers.

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.

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.

Trazodone for dogs during fireworks

My weimaraner Remy takes a sedative called Trazodone before fireworks begin on the Fourth of July and on New Year’s Eve. We have a LOT of fireworks in our town on these holidays.

Our vet said to give Remy Trazodone about an hour before the fireworks begin. This has helped Remy hunker down and try to go to sleep in his kennel while the fireworks are going on for several hours.

Trazodone is an anti anxiety medication that is also used for dogs with separation anxiety or travel anxiety.

Sileo for dog’s anxiety around fireworks

Sileo is marketed as an effective drug that helps dogs with noise aversion without the side effect of sedation, according to 1800PetMeds, which sells the product.

You give the dog Sileo orally with a syringe and requires a prescription for a vet.

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

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