The Fourth of July is a fun holiday for most humans filled with beer and bbq. But for dogs, it can be a day of terror. More dogs go missing on July 4 than any other time of the year because loud popping and cracking fireworks frighten around 25 percent of dogs. Some may get spooked and try to escape, while others will tremble and shake or express difficult-to-spot reactions. It’s hard to know the right way to care for a distressed animal.
We talked to Sheena Davis, a veterinary nurse and certified veterinary cannabis counselor, for her insight on CBD for pets to see how we may be able to help nervous pups this Independence Day.
Why are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
A 2013 study from the University of Bristol revealed fireworks are the most common fear trigger in dogs. Both natural and environmental factors determine a pet’s response to fireworks. The study discovered a traumatic noise experience in the past or lack of exposure to loud sounds as a puppy both contribute to potential sound anxiety. An owner’s improper response, like over-comforting or punishing, can also play a role.
Vocalizing, trembling, hiding and seeking people are the most common fear responses. Interestingly, almost half of the owners reported these reactions, but only one-quarter of responders said their pets were afraid of loud noises. This discrepancy showed that many owners were unaware of what behaviors qualify as a fear response. Furthermore, other uncommon stress signs like decreased activity or salivation often go unrecognized.
Genetics play a role as well. In a study by the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, researchers observed 5,257 dogs while exposing them to abrasive noises, according to a Psychology Today article. Twenty-three percent of dogs showed fear responses.
Shiba Inus, wheaten terriers, and Norwegian buhunds were most fearful. Popular hunting breeds that are sometimes around gunshots, like labs, springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, and pointers, were less likely afraid of fireworks. Great Danes, Boxers and Chinese cresteds were also less fearful. Female dogs are 30 percent more likely to respond anxiously to sound than male dogs. In addition, the study uncovered that dogs typically tend to become more afraid as they age. For each year a dog ages, there is a 3.4 percent increase in reaction to sounds.
The article states that a dog’s reaction to loud sounds could indicate their general anxiety level. Pets with noise sensitivity are three times more likely to experience separation anxiety and 18 percent more likely to show signs of stress in new situations. Dogs living with the owner who breeds them are also often less concerned with noise.
CBD for Pets
Just like humans, dogs have an endocannabinoid system, a messaging network associated with pain and mood. The existence of the ECS is the basis for why many people believe cannabis works so well for multiple conditions. The same logic applies to why CBD may be helpful for dogs and cats.
Thus far, most CBD research for pets surrounds seizure control and pain reduction. Davis says there are a few studies on CBD for pet anxiety available, but the studies showed mixed results. More conclusive research is needed. However, there is strong anecdotal evidence that it’s beneficial.
“My colleagues and I see a positive response to CBD products in our patients, anecdotally, along with behavior modification training,” Davis says.
For instance, she shared a story about how an old Shih Tzu became fearful of fireworks as she aged. Davis said traditional anti-anxieties like Trazodone and Dexmedetomidine were ineffective. so they started her on CBD oil for dogs. They started with a few drops onto a treat once daily until reaching the target dose of two drops every 12 hours for a week before and after July 4. The owner also created a soundproof safe haven for their Shih Tzu and played soothing music in the background. The experiment was a success, Davis says.
Is THC Toxic to Dogs?
Davis said high levels of THC may be toxic to pets who may also have concurrent systemic diseases such as kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes and more.
“It’s of utmost importance for a pet parent to consult with a veterinary cannabis counselor and have an exam with blood work prior to starting treatment,” she says.
According to the ASPCA website, symptoms include dizziness, incontinence, shaking, extreme lethargy, dilated pupils, hyperactivity, vocalization, drooling, vomiting and urinary incontinence. In severe cases, it can cause seizures. To keep your pets safe, keep any THC products out of reach.
Davis says if a pet consumes a large amount of THC-rich cannabis, it is vital to contact your local vet or emergency vet to get treatment right away. She adds there haven’t been any deaths due to high levels of THC.
CBD for Pets Products
CBD Tinctures for Pets
Our CBD tinctures for pets include the same formula as our original tincture for humans. The only difference is the lower dose. Drizzle the extract on your dog’s food, or they can lick a few drops from the dropper.
CBD Dog Treats
Dog chews and biscuits are other common pet CBD products. Check how many milligrams are in each CBD dog treat and dose accordingly to its potency and your pet’s weight. Our treats are made with human-grade, organic ingredients including oat flour, molasses, oat bran, CBD oil and coconut oil.
Davis says keep an eye out for ingredients known to be harmful to pets, such as raisins, avocados, xylitol (artificial sugar), chocolate and more.
CBD Dosing For Dogs
Davis says she prefers to use tinctures because you can get a more accurate dosage vs. splitting a treat in half. However, some people may have an easier time administering CBD to their pets via treats. Regardless, dosing can be tricky since pets react differently, she says. Some only need a small amount, while others may need a bit more.
“I would strongly advise talking to your veterinarian or cannabis counselor prior to dosing on your own,” she says.
Pet parents will usually see a positive effect in 1 to 2 weeks. If using CBD isolate products, the positive effect may taper off after a few months. They may need to change over to a full spectrum product, she adds.
“When looking at potential products for your pet, I strongly advise asking a company for a certificate of analysis to ensure this product is safe for consumption,” she says. “If a product is untested, you or your pet could be consuming harmful contaminants. A certificate of analysis will also inform you of what types of cannabinoids are in a product and list the ratio of CBD: THC.”
What Else Can You Do?
Along with CBD, be sure to give your pet some exercise. Try a weighted blanket or anxiety vest. You can also prepare your dog with exposure training by making loud sounds and rewarding them with treats. Work up to louder and louder sounds until they can handle fireworks. You can also try distracting them with TV or music or giving them a puzzle toy.
With a little effort, your pet may soon be able to enjoy The Fourth as much as you do.