By Angela Ardolino
Updated on June 9, 2021
As the owner of a rescue farm, holidays with fireworks are my least favorite. Every Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve holiday, my home was filled with panicked howls, whimpers, and the sound of dogs pacing. Before discovering the calming power of full spectrum CBD, I wondered “What can I give my dog for fireworks anxiety?” Seeing the animals on my farm cower and shake every time a firework burst just broke my heart. Since using CBD, the animals on my farm no longer shake, pace, or panic during fireworks.
Is Fireworks Anxiety in Dogs Common?
According to a 2015 study, published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, which took into account 5,000 dogs of 17 breeds:
Dogs are more afraid of fireworks than they are of gunshots, thunderstorms, or heavy traffic.
Only 10 percent of dogs exhibited fear of thunderstorms.
Only 14 percent of dogs reacted to gunshots.
Yet, 21 percent of dogs showed “strong or very strong signs of being fearful” during fireworks.
Fear of loud noises increases with age.
But it’s not just dogs who suffer when fireworks explode. In a 2010 study, surveying 3,527 dogs and cats, roughly 46 percent of cats displayed a level of fear of fireworks that was recognizable to the pet owners. The study also revealed that although dogs exhibit a more outward display or fear of fireworks while cats exhibit cowering behaviors, the duration of fear-based responses did not differ between dogs and cats. Of the animals observed, six percent were injured because of their fear-based reactions.
Why is My Dog Afraid of Fireworks?
Loud fireworks are often a trigger for panic disorder (PD) and canine-post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). PD and C-PTSD are more than just a reaction to fear. They can cause unexpected urination, defecation, vocalization, salivation, trembling or shaking, increased and unfocused motor activity, decreased motor activity or freezing, random destruction, and escape behaviors.
Beyond just pets having intense fear and panic reactions to fireworks, human anxiety can be triggered as well. This can then create a chain reaction, causing anxiety in your pets. Veterans and survivors of shootings are more likely to have an episode of PTSD on fireworks holidays. Also, children are often afraid of the sound of fireworks, which can then trigger anxiety in pets as well.
These panic responses occur because of the fight or flight reaction that happens in the body. When you, or your pet, is responding to acute stress and external stressors, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, due to the sudden release of hormones. These hormones stimulate the adrenal glands, triggering the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. It can take up to an hour for the body to return to normal after the threat is gone, which is why so many dogs continue to pant and panic long after the fireworks end.
Related: Thunderstorm Anxiety in Dogs
The Dangers of Fireworks Fear
Exhibiting signs of fear can mean a wide range of things for different pets. For some, it means they are suffering from regular anxiety which often manifests through barking, pacing, and panting. But for others, fear and panic can lead to dangerous results. These panic reactions can be seen directly on my farm, Nina, a Doberman, and Odie, a miniature schnauzer, are terrified of fireworks. Their reactions range from barking incessantly to pacing, panting, and hiding – all depending on how close and loud the fireworks are. Despite living in an area with daily thunderstorms, noise anxiety is a very real issue for my sweet Nina and my sassy Odie, and it peaks during fireworks.
In recent years, multiple reports have surfaced of older dogs and even puppies suffering fatal heart attacks during fireworks displays. Additionally, during these noisy celebrations there are increased incidents of dogs running through sliding glass doors or running away. In fact, more dogs are lost on July 4th and January 1st than any other days of the year.
How To Calm Your Dog During Fireworks
Keep your pet inside. Your natural instinct might be to let your dog face their fear and join you outside. However, they may panic and try to run away or become more aggressive. Instead, let your dog run and exercise outside earlier in the day and before the fireworks begin, bring them inside.
Keep their environment calm. To avoid the bright lights contributing to your pet’s anxiety, close the curtains or blinds. You may find that playing soft music helps keep them calm as well.
Keep guests away from your pet. New people can cause more anxiety in a panicked dog. If there are lots of people around, keep pets in their own calm space, rather than letting them roam.
Wrap or Swaddle your pet. Putting something with weight or slight pressure on your pet creates a calming effect, according to a recent study. Just like weighted blankets can help people with anxiety, a comfortable weighted shirt or swaddle can give your pet a sense of feeling grounded and calm. Though be sure they are still able to move around freely. You can find vests, like the Thunder Shirt, at your local pet store. You can also save money by wrapping your pet’s chest in an ace bandage (but not too tight!!) to create the same effect.
Related: Keep Pets Calm during Summer Fireworks
What Can I Give My Dog For Fireworks Anxiety?
Despite all of the frightening facts about fireworks, there is a safe way to help your pets and even yourself: Full Spectrum CBD. Full spectrum CBD has been proven to help manage PD, C-PTSD, and PTSD on holidays when fireworks will be used.
A 2013 article published in Neuropharmacology also found that: “In addition to modulating basal anxiety states, recent studies suggest an important role for the endocannabinoid (eCB) and glucocorticoid systems is the modulation of emotional states and extinction of aversive memories in animals.” This means that CBD can help in facilitating extinction of negative emotion surrounding triggers, like fireworks, and helps manage PTSD and anxiety or panic disorders in people and animals.
Even more interesting: A 2019 study published in the Permanente Journal found that CBD also has a calming effect on the central nervous system and is better tolerated than other psychiatric medications.
Although many vets recommend giving your pet children’s Benadryl, it is important to remember that this drug is not intended for animals and may have side effects. For example, Benadryl can put a strain on a dog’s liver and kidneys if they are already experiencing issues in those areas. So when you’re wondering, What can I give my dog for Fireworks Anxiety? Remember, CBD is a safer, natural solution to keeping your pet relaxed.
Since using Calm CBD Oil, the animals on my farm no longer shake, pace, or panic during fireworks. Instead, they are able to rest and nap despite the noise, without the sedative effect of Benadryl.
Related: How CBD helps with separation, noise, and everyday anxiety
Dosing CBD for Fireworks Anxiety in Dogs
Cannabinoids in the hemp plant, including CBD, interact with the endocannabinoid system. Every mammal has an endocannabinoid system, which has receptors that instruct the cells how to heal and restore homeostasis in the body. Dogs have twice the amount of receptors than people, which means that CBD and other cannabinoids are incredibly effective.
Despite common misconceptions, dosing CBD has very little to do with your dog’s size and weight. Some dogs have a more sensitive endocannabinoid system than others, so the optimal dose of CBD can vary between dogs.
For example, even though Nina is four times the size of Odie, she only needs around 9 mg of CBD to relieve her fireworks anxiety. In contrast, Odie needs 20 mg or more to calm down. Two dramatically differently sized dogs who require dramatically different CBD dosages for the same ailment, because their endocannabinoid systems are not identically sensitive.
That’s why we have a range of dosage recommendations based on our experience and research. For noise and fireworks anxiety, we suggest a dose of 9mg before the triggering event. Then, if your pet is still anxious after 15-20 minutes, you can administer another 9mg until you see results.
If your dog doesn’t seem to be responding to the initial dose, it is perfectly safe to give them more without fear of overdosing. If you feel nervous about experimenting to find the upper limit of their sensitivity, rest assured, it is completely safe. Numerous studies have proven the safety of cannabis based medicine at even extreme high doses. Doses of up to 640 mg of CBD rich extract were well tolerated by dogs, with only mild adverse effects such as diarrhea.
Related: CBD Dosage for Dogs
How Else Can I Protect My Pet?
Frustratingly, fireworks do not actually need to have sound. In fact, many fireworks displays in Europe use so-called “quiet fireworks,”. A town in Italy even passed a law that all fireworks must be quiet. Currently, a few cities and towns in the U.S. are petitioning to enact similar laws. However, the number of petitions seem to be growing.
To get involved, find and contact your local congressional representative here to urge them to enact stricter fireworks laws. You can request that they consider requiring all fireworks to be quiet fireworks in their cities and towns. Until more quiet fireworks laws are enacted, you can do your part to help reduce fireworks noise by attending controlled fireworks shows in your community rather than buying your own.
About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years. She operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. Angela is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. She founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets.
Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle. Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab. Plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day, and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association and has trained hundreds medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.