July fireworks bring more business to vets treating pets’ anxieties

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Dr. Sara Shaw, of the West Valley Veterinary Clinic, watches receptionist Lori Behrens put a dog back in a crate on Monday, July 3, 2017.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Each July, veterinarian Sara Shaw sees an increase of dogs flooding into the West Valley Veterinary Clinic.

“The whole summer can be like that, but building up to the Fourth is where we see the most,” Shaw said.

Since dogs have more sensitive hearing than humans, fireworks season often provokes anxiety in dogs, who cannot differentiate between what sound is safe and unsafe.

“It’s something that they’re not used to … they can’t get accustomed to something like we can,” said David Moss, director of West Valley City Animal Services. “Even if they experienced it last year, it’s brand new all over again.”

Moss said Independence Day is one of the busiest nights of the year for his officers because they often see panicked dogs running around neighborhoods.

“We would encourage residents to be aware that this is a potential problem,” Moss said.

While most dogs are OK with just being inside and away from fireworks or other loud noises, others face chronic anxiety and need medication to be treated, Shaw said.

However, rather than creating new medications specifically for dogs, veterinarians are using anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Ativan and Trazodone, as well as the allergy-relief medicine Benadryl, for its sedative effect.

The medications are prescribed in smaller and more compact doses to suit animals, and veterinarians are careful to only prescribe a few pills, to prevent abuse by animal owners.

“It is a concern because people do try to use dog meds for themselves,” Shaw said.

Shaw said the majority of owners looking to get anxiety medication for their dogs visit the vet before July 4. However, some come in after the fact when their pet shows signs of trauma, even after the fireworks…

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