One of my most beloved dogs was Roo, a German Sheppard/Collie mix I adopted from a friend who found her running the streets. She was smart, loyal and protective. I still see her laying next to me in the front yard, no leash, stone cold, while I pulled weeds. A man was walking down our street and as he got close to the house, a low growl emitted from her, and the man quickly moved to the other side of street. As brave as she was, she fell apart when she heard loud noises like fireworks or thunder during a storm, trying to squeeze her large body behind the toilet or under my bed, trembling the entire time. Oh, my heart broke for her! I wished I could help ease her anxiety and restore the calm, confident girl I knew and loved. Twenty years later, I know CBD could have helped my girl.
Why Fear Fireworks?
“Some dogs simply seem more sensitive and susceptible to developing a fear of noises, and this susceptibility may indicate a genetic predisposition toward the problem,” according to an article written by Kristen Collins, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist on PedMD.com. Other dogs learn to fear certain sounds when a distressing event occurs during the noise, linking the two together.
Dog Noise Fear vs. Anxiety vs. Phobia
They might seem the same, but fear, anxiety and phobia are very different.
How Pets Show Fear
According to VCA Hospitals, “Fear is an aversive emotional state with physiological, behavioral, and emotional reactions to stimuli which are perceived as an actual threat or danger.” Pets will change their body language or activity when they’re afraid. “The physiological reaction results in increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate (panting), sweating, trembling, pacing, and possibly urination, defecation and/or anal sac secretion.”
You may notice subtle changes in body language like avoiding eye contact, looking or turning away, scratching, yawning, licking the lips, wet dog shaking or trembling. Other obvious changes in body language may include “lowering of the head and body, pinning the ears back closer to the head, widening the eyes or tucking the tail under the body. The pet may engage in active avoidance responses, such as fleeing or hiding.”
Anxiety in Dogs
The American Kennel Club lists the most common causes of dog anxiety as:
- Fear (loud noises; visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas, strange people, animals or places; specific situations like the vet’s office)
- Separation (dogs are uncomfortable when separated from their family or left home alone. Roo killed my loofah, shoelaces and a Garth Brooks double live CD. Apparently, she wasn’t a fan.)
- Age-related (common in older dogs when awareness, memory and learning start to decline)
Symptoms of anxiety include panting, drooling, excessive barking, restlessness, aggression, urinating or defecating in the house, destructive behavior (I know!) and repetitive or compulsive behaviors.
Phobias in Dogs
While fear is a normal response to an actual or perceived threat, a phobia is “an exaggerated fear response that can completely overwhelm a dog” noted at Positively.com. As we know, common phobias include fireworks, thunderstorms and a baby crying.
Ways to help calm fearful or phobic dogs as:
- Thanks to years of research, there is solid proof that specially designed bioacoustic music has a calming effect on dogs that are exposed to it, which also calms fearful dogs in any situation, as well as dogs that have phobias to certain noises.
- Provide them with comfort items like their favorite blanket or toy.
- Music has a positive effect when played in environments or situations that a dog might find overwhelming such as in a car, boarding facility, shelter, day-care or at the veterinarian.
- Music can also help promote relaxation when played at home or calm a dog that suffers from anxiety when left alone. (Except Garth Brooks)
- Massage can help promote relaxation and lower stress levels. Try lying with your dog and talking to her in a comforting manner.
- Give them a safe place to hide by moving their bed to under a table or in a corner. I used bed risers to raise my bed and give Roo a place to hide where she wouldn’t hurt herself.
- Certain scents and pheromones can calm fearful dogs.
- Teaching basic cues will activate a dog’s thinking brain which in turn deactivates his emotional brain. Therefore, when a dog is thinking he has less time to be emotional. This is why teaching cues and doing problem solving activities such as scent work helps to turn fear into curiosity.
- If a dog is too overwhelmed to learn, medication might be needed. This will take the edge off the fear, so your dog is able to learn again. Fear causes shutdown and when a dog is shut down no learning can take place. Medication can help him get to a better place.
Using CBD Oil to Calm Your Pet
CBD or cannabidiol is a compound that is manufactured from the cannabis hemp plant. CBD is a different cannabinoid than THC and does not cause a high. CBD works with the endocannabinoid system in the body that regulates many of your pet’s natural functions. Research has shown that CBD works with a receptor in the brain called the CB1 receptor. Research also indicates that CBD can help promote calming effects in the body for both humans and animals.
How Do I Administer CBD Oil to My Dog?
Many pet owners utilize CBD oil to help keep their pets calm. We recommend that you administer the CBD oil to your dog several hours prior to the fireworks. This allows the oil to pass through the digestive system and begin to work.
If using CBD oil, you will simply place a few drops in your dog’s mouth or add it to their food. The amount of CBD oil your dog requires will depend on a variety of factors. The size of your dog, their level of fear, and the amount of CBD in the oil you have purchased will also play a role in what dosage your pet will need. Shah Saffron CBD does not contain THC so there are no psychoactive effects. The saffron in our CBD oil has been shown to not only help with calming people and pets but may also help your older pets improve mobility and energy levels and may calm hyperactive pets.
You can read how CBD can be beneficial to your pets in our previous blog post.