Preparing Your Dog for the New Year
By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
Follow Dr. LH on Twitter
As the holiday season continues on, many of us are preparing for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. These are often highly festive events, but it is important to keep your dog’s safety in mind when making your plans.
New Year’s Eve often comes with fireworks and loud noises. Many dogs have noise phobias—fear of loud noises. Add in excited (and potentially imbibed) individuals, and the whole evening can be terrifying for your dog (or other pets). Now is the time to take proactive steps to ensure your dog is happy and safe. If you know your dog has noise phobias, assess the plans for New Year’s. Will you be at home, hosting a party, or out of the home? If you will be at home, plan to spend lots of time with your dog, with relaxing breaks. For instance, if you will be watching college football (my home), ensure that you don’t yell at the TV screen too much. Consider avoiding noisemakers. You may also want to avoid confetti, as some dogs and cats will eat it and have problems later.
If you will be hosting a party, it is important to consider the comfort of all your guests, including your own dog. Many dogs are social, but may still feel overwhelmed in a very crowded space. If she becomes overwhelmed you may see signs such as her ears pinned back, hiding or cowering, hackles elevated, lifting lips, vocalizing, or submissive urination. Consider designating a “pet only” area of your home, such as a bedroom. Put your dog’s crate in that area at least 2 days before the party, so she can become familiar with that location. Ensure there is fresh water, and a favorite (or new) toy to help entertain her. Consider keeping her in the “pet only” space throughout the party, or as the party continues into the later hours, past her normal “bed time.”
If you will be leaving home to go to a party, consider your home’s conditions on New Year’s Eve. Will there be fireworks close by? Is your neighbor or roommate having a party? Even if you are out of the home, your pet may still be in a loud situation. And without you there to comfort her, she may be fearful. Consider playing the sound of fireworks or a loud party in your home days prior to the party, while you are available. This early test can help you be aware of potential issues. Additionally, consider leaving on the TV or radio for her during your time away from home. These sounds can act as white noise to help drown out other activities. You can also look for a pet sitter to come visit while you are away.
Veterinarians are also able to help. Short acting anti-anxiety medications, such as alprazolam, may be used to help provide anxiety relief. Many of these medications are dose dependent, meaning each dog may respond slightly differently, or may need a higher or lower dose. I recommend trying the medication a few days prior to the anxiety-inducing event, while you are home, to evaluate how she will do with the medication.
Phermone treatment, such as Adaptil, can also be used to help provide comfort. I generally recommend starting pheromone treatment prior to the known anxiety-inducing event, to help provide best results.
Your pet can wear close fitting garments, such as Thundershirt, to provide relief. These garments wrap around her snuggly, to provide comfort and the sense of pressure around the body. Some dogs respond very well to these garments, and other dogs have no response. The only way to know if she will respond is to try one out.
One of the most important things that you can do for your pet prior to New Year’s Eve is to get her microchipped (if she is not already). New Year’s Eve has some of the highest ‘lost pet’ rates, due to pet’s running away because of loud noises. So if you are taking your pet in to be evaluated for noise phobias, please make sure she is microchipped, so she can be returned home to you if she is lost. Many pet parents believe it could not happen to their pet, unfortunately thousands of people are incorrect each year.
My wish for you this year is a happy and healthy 2016, for you and your pet. I hope these hints help keep everyone in your home safe and happy!