Cause Fur Baby You’re A Firework

Are you ready for the 4th of July holiday coming up this week? Chances are that no matter where you live you will be able to experience fireworks. Even if there aren’t firework displays planned in your town or neighborhood, I’m sure all of your neighbors will be setting off some sort of loud pyrotechnic devices. To us, they are beautiful and eye catching. I think our pets would whole-heartedly disagree, however. Fireworks are man-made and when we ignite them, the animals in our homes are under the impression that the world is ending. How could we expect them to know that it isn’t? Instead of trying to convince them by simply telling them, I’ve come up with five pro-tips to help our furry loved ones adapt to our explosive ways to celebrate. 

Physical Stimulation

When it comes to tiring out your dog or cat, this is probably the most obvious way. It’s hard to be terrified when you’re exhausted, right? There are many ways to go about incorporating more exercise into your dog’s routine leading up to big holiday celebrations. This is a good thing because you know your dog better than anyone else, and you can find options that are aligned with your lifestyle as well. For instance, if you and your dog are active and take regular walks or runs, then you could extend your walks by 15-30 minutes or go on additional walks, or add a run into your routine if you don’t typically do so. Think of the added benefit for yourself too, especially before indulging in holiday cheat meals this week. 

Other outdoor exercise ideas include fetch in the backyard or park, extra time at the dog park, and including your dog in everyday activities in which you partake. If possible, try going to dog-friendly restaurants or bars if you have plans. Depending where you live, there may even be dog park and bar hybrid establishments. Here in Atlanta we have a facility called Fetch Park & Ice House, which is a full service dog park with a bar so you can hang out with your friends while your dog hangs out with theirs! I know what some of you are thinking; where do I find the time? If you don’t have the ability to work out with your dog, other great options are dog daycares, dog walkers, and if you’re fortunate enough to find a company that does so, you can hire someone to take your dog for a run! 

If you have a dog that is less active, older, or has health issues, then I would skip the run. However, extra walking time would help if your pup can handle it. Dogs who have difficulty getting out of the house for whatever reason can still be active inside your home. Find a space to play fetch, or tug-of-war. You could also hide their favorite toys and treats around the house and have a scavenger hunt. However your dog enjoys to play, take it and run with it (pun intended). Indoor play also applies to cats. There are certain toys that my cat goes nuts for, and he has so many that when I want to tire him out I get his bag of toys out and go through each one until he is ready for a nap. I have even tied a string to my belt loop or ankle while I’m doing chores around the apartment. Simon goes crazy for a string, so it’s a productive way to entertain him! Whatever the case, physical activity is just as beneficial for our pets as it is for us. If you’ve ever worked out, you know how well you sleep at night after a gym session. 

Spending the day giving your pet the spa treatment can also be tiring! Brushing and bathing your pet is a really good way to bond with them and tire them out a bit. Creating that social bond with your pet causes feel good chemicals in the body to activate. As an acupressure massage practitioner, I will also add in that brushing our pets helps stimulate energy that runs through the body, and encouraging balance. A balanced body can lead to a balanced mind. I recommend brushing or combing them out really well before the bath, and then again once they are dry. We’ve all seen our fur babies strut around after a bath, so why not boost their confidence to prepare for a possibly stressful time. You know how your dog or cat prefers to play and spend their time, so take the time the days and even hours leading up to Independence Day celebrations to provide that additional activity time.

Mental Stimulation

One of the few occupations in the pet field that I have not worked in directly is training, but I always recommend incorporating mental stimulation and challenges into your pet’s routine. If you’ve ever sat in on a long seminar or lecture, you know how tiring mental stimulation can be. Who else tries to read before bedtime, but gets 5 pages in and their eyelids feel like they will never open again? Hopefully not just me. The same concept applies to our pets! Try interrupting their physical activity with mental activity. A real double whammy for you. Engage with your dogs during walks. Randomly have them sit, lie down, or any other trick they know or you want them to know. You can carry treats on you to reinforce the behavior, or simply reward with praise. Make sure they are giving you eye contact and really paying attention to what you’re asking of them.

This can absolutely extend into your routine at home as well. I’m going to repeat myself a little here, because hiding treats and toys around the house can get them thinking as well. The more you plan and engage with your pet during physical activities, the more mental stimulation is going to occur. The age old trick of freezing toys stuffed with canned food or peanut butter is another fun option for your pet. There are slow feeders and puzzle toys that you can hide food or treats in (and then some you can freeze), so the dog or cat is motivated to think about how to get the delicious treat out of it. I have a treat puzzle for Simon, so when I leave the house I drop a few treats in it so he is distracted while I leave. Which leads me into my next statement; cats can be mentally stimulated too! Simon is food motivated, so I’ve worked on a few training commands with him, including ‘sit,’ ‘up” (to jump onto my lap), and I have also gotten him to jump on my back and through a hoop in the past – not in the same motion, but that would be pretty cool. My point is that cats benefit from, and enjoy, mental stimulation as much as dogs.

Supplements and Herbal Remedies

If you’ve done any travelling with your pet, you probably know about (or have heard of) the various supplements and herbal remedies for them to help take the edge off. I am not particularly fond of prescription drugs that would make our fur-babies drowsy, for two reasons. The first being that long term use could put a strain on the organs that filter toxins in the body, putting added stress on the body in addition to emotional stress. The second reason is that if your pet is still awake, but drowsy, they may remember that moment to be very confusing and possibly cause more stress during future holidays or thunderstorms. Each pet differ so we all have to find what works best for us and our furbabies, but prescription drugs are generally my last option once all others have been exhausted. I have tried quite a few different natural remedies with Simon, so I can speak on my own experiences with them, but I will repeat that it may take a few tries to find what works best for our own circumstance. 

The most talked about supplement these days is Cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil. CBD is the non-psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant family. It is most commonly derived from hemp plants and it seems like the list of benefits from CBD is never ending. Many claim that CBD can help with inflammation, anxiety, pain, depression, skin issues, and even cancer-related symptoms. Those are just a few examples that CBD may help with; I could spend all day talking about CBD for pet care, but let’s not get distracted from the upcoming fireworks! CBD comes in liquid and treats, so you have options in which to administer it to your dog or cat. CBD has helped take the edge off for Simon during travel, thunderstorms, and fireworks. A few CBD companies I’ve tried and have had positive results include Petals and Tails, Pet Relief, and Holistic Hound.

Another natural option for anxious pets during the 4th of July week is Bach Flower Rescue Remedy. Bach flower is a homeopathic remedy that uses flower essence that claim to have healing properties. The flower essence has been shown to help soothe and   balance out any emotional. They make products for humans and animals. This is definitely a product that I would recommend trying out a few times before you know you’re going to need it (and the results may even be with each use). Some pets are more affected by it than others, so by testing it out beforehand, you know how well your dog or cat does with it. 

Similarly, there are products made with valerian root, melatonin, and tryptophan, which can help your pet get some rest. Tryptophan is naturally occurring in Turkey, putting everyone to sleep at Thanksgiving, so it can be very effective for calming your pet. Valerian root is an herb that is shown to have a calming effect and help with sleep. Likewise, melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep. Speaking of hormones, there are also pheromone sprays and diffusers that are on the market for calming pets as well. A popular option is a plug-in product that diffuses pheromones into a room throughout the day, so your dog or cat can maintain a constant, balanced peaceful state of mind. A few products I recommend that contain the herbal ingredients are NaturVet Quiet Time, Pet Naturals Calming treats, VetriScience Composure, Ark Naturals Happy Traveler, and Rx Vitamins. These are the ones I’ve used the most, but depending where you are located, you may have access to different companies with similar products. Ask your local pet health supply store or veterinarian for advice.

Calm Environment

I think it’s safe to say that we all know how much our environment can impact our mood. If I am feeling overwhelmed or scatterbrained, I know that if I clean and tidy up my home I will feel better, especially if I have to get work done from home (like writing these blogs for ya’ll!). I think the same applies for our pets. They feel better when they have a safe and comfortable place in your home to escape to, especially during stressful times. If your dog or cat prefers to hide, create a place for them to do so. In addition to a location, you may want to use a pheromone spray on their bed and blanket, to help them find comfort. I always include a shirt I’ve worn to bed recently, so my own pheromones and natural smells are there to provide comfort for Simon.

You can also play mellow music (or music you know he or she prefers), or have the television on loud. If you’re hosting 4th of July this year, plan to designate a certain room or area in your home to set up for your pet. Being in a party setting can be too much for them to handle, on top of fireworks and other celebrations going on. This is also a great place to give frozen Kong toys or other chew toys that will occupy them. Again, you know your pet better than I do, so think about their favorite toys and treats to bring into their safe space.

Companionship

Some pets will do well with one of the above suggestions, while others will need a combination of them. When I provided pet-sitting in my own home in the past, I would usually do a combination of multiple things I’ve listed above; and I also stayed home on holidays so the dogs and Simon did not feel alone, which could cause more stress. Just knowing that I was there provided them comfort. Our fur babies often look to us to understand how to respond to most situations. If we remain calm, it allows them space to find peace as well. However, when we see our babies upset we can sometimes become stressed for them, and when we make a big deal about how upset they are it can actually add fuel to the fire on the whole scenario. If you’ll be with your pets during the Independence Day excitement, try to remember to encourage a relaxed mindset for both you and your pets. If you believe you won’t be able to provide that companionship for your pets this week, try calling your pet sitter or boarding facilities you know and trust to find out if they have availability and would be staying with them the whole time.

When holidays come along, it’s very easy to get caught up in the preparations for observance, whether it be hosting or attending a party, or travel plans. Try not to forget about plans for your fur babies. They deserve to have an opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves as well. With appropriate preparations, you will provide the environment and tools for your dogs and cats to have a pleasant holiday.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day everyone!

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