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ASK THE VET: Fireworks and storms terrify some dogs

by Lee Pickett, DVM | June 22, 2020 at 2:02 a.m.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Carrie Hill)

Q Our dog Hunter is terrified of loud noises, so I'm concerned he'll panic during Fourth of July fireworks and summer thunderstorms. How can we help Hunter remain calm?

A I'm sorry Hunter has a noise phobia. It's understandable, considering a dog's acute hearing.

When fireworks are expected or a thunderstorm is predicted, modify Hunter's environment to minimize his stress.

Close the windows and curtains to reduce the noise and flashes of light, and turn on the fans and air conditioner to cover the sound. If you have a basement or an interior room where noise is muted, invite Hunter there.

Turn on the television or radio, or play music with a loud, regular beat to mask the outside noise. To further muffle the outdoor sound, put cotton balls in Hunter's ears, or use Mutt Muffs doggie ear protection.

If Hunter feels secure in his crate, cover it with a blanket and let him rest there with the door open so he can move elsewhere if he feels the need. When he is in his crate, reassure him that he is a good boy, and give him some yummy treats or a stuffed Kong toy.

Distract Hunter from what's going on outside by tossing him a toy, practicing obedience exercises or teaching a new skill with food rewards.

During the summer thunderstorm/fireworks season, outfit Hunter with an Adaptil collar, or put a plug-in Adaptil diffuser in his favorite room. Adaptil, a pheromone that helps dogs feel more secure, is available online, from your veterinarian or at the pet supply store.

The Anxiety Wrap, ThunderShirt and similar garments help some dogs feel calmer by applying gentle pressure to the body. Calming Cap and ThunderCap face covers reduce visual stimulation but still allow the dog to see. Composure chews also help.

Talk with your veterinarian about giving Hunter an anti-anxiety medication as needed or throughout the summer. Options include pills and a gel applied to the gums.

If these measures don't calm Hunter, ask your veterinarian to refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Q My cat, Nutmeg, was urinating outside her litter box, so I took her to the veterinarian, who initiated treatment. I want to get rid of the urine odors that persist, in part to prevent Meg from urinating in the same spots, but I can't find them. How do I identify where she urinated? What's the best way to remove cat urine?

A The first step is to buy a "black light," actually an ultraviolet light, available online or at a store that sells posters to teens.

Wait until dark, and turn off your lights. Then hold your black light an inch or two from your carpet, upholstery and drapes. The areas that glow fluorescent yellow-green are urine puddles or sprays.

Urine, whether wet or dry, fluoresces under black light. Dust particles and other things do, too, so don't be distracted by the tiny sparkles you see topping your carpet.

Clean the urine spots with an enzymatic cleaner that removes the stain and odor. Popular brands are Nature's Miracle and Simple Solution.

The cleaner's enzymes break down the urine and remove the odor. Soaps and detergents are ineffective and prevent the enzymes from working, so resist the urge to use them first.

Follow the directions on the enzyme product label, dowsing the area with copious quantities of the cleaner. Remember that you need to soak the carpet and the pad underneath.

I scrub the area with my fingers, let the cleaner sit for the recommended time, and then place an old towel on the carpet and stand on it to blot up the moisture and stain.

Then I repeat the dowsing, allowing the second treatment to evaporate and take the odor with it. If the urine smell persists after the area is dry, repeat the treatment.

With any luck, your home's urine odor should disappear, and with veterinary care, Meg's problem should not recur.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at


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