Q We have a severe fireworks problem in our town. Our councilwoman is helping with the situation. Can you please write a column describing what fireworks do to our pets? . It's been going on for years, and they do it all year-round. It is awful and heartbreaking.
— Anonymous, South Wantagh, Indiana
A Fireworks are not only a problem for noise-phobic dogs, but for war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. These aren't the fireworks shows that people attend on the Fourth of July, but fireworks purchased by individuals and then set off in neighborhoods where war veterans and noise-phobic dogs live and are stressed by the sound.
My county banned fireworks many years ago, hoping people would attend fireworks shows instead. But people continue to drive to neighboring counties, make their purchases and come back to set them off. Bans are good, but they must be enforced. I always wonder why counties couldn't provide a place for families to set off their fireworks; some big field outside the city with a fire truck standing by in case the fireworks cause a fire. In any event, I hope your councilwoman is successful in banning fireworks in your community. It will make a difference for the people and pets.
If you have a noise-phobic dog, the Fourth of July can be a tough time for you. These dogs often go into panic mode upon hearing the first "pop-pop" sounds. Their reactionary symptoms include heavy panting, trembling, pacing, freezing in place, hiding and uncontrolled urination/defecation. Their freakouts can escalate into the destruction of the home or harm to themselves. In extreme cases, dogs may bolt out open doors or crash through windows to escape the noise, so make sure your dog's ID tag is up to date.
Pet parents should have a plan of action to ensure their pet's well-being. This may involve staying home with the dog; getting anxiety medication from your veterinarian for your dog; putting an Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt on the dog; adding a few drops of Rescue Remedy in the dog's drinking water; introducing a white-noise machine; and/or playing a show or streaming a relaxmydog.com video on YouTube. Sometimes you have to try a combination of things to settle a noise-phobic dog's nerves.
Banning fireworks in neighborhoods seems like the kindest and simplest thing to do.
Q I have a 5-year-old Shih Tzu male dog. All of a sudden, he stopped walking on the grass. He will only walk on concrete and now it's affecting his bathroom habits. He stops one time to urinate, and that's it. I'm lucky to get one bowel movement out of him a week. His veterinarian said, "When he has to go, he'll go." But it's very frustrating because a lot of the time he wants to walk in the street. It's as if he has some kind of grass phobia. Have you ever heard of this before?
— Nancy, Smithtown
A Yes, there are some dogs who suddenly stop walking on grass for no apparent reason. While no one knows for sure why, the dog definitely has a reason that we will likely never know. Maybe he has a grass allergy, which makes his paws itchy — it is the season. It may be the grass was treated with a fertilizer or pesticide and he doesn't like the smell of it or how it feels on his paws.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to get a dog walking on grass again. Feed your dog outside for about a week. Place the bowl halfway on the grass and halfway on the concrete so he stands on the concrete while eating. Then over the course of the week, inch the bowl into the grass a little more each day until he and the bowl are fully on the grass. If he's on to you, put an extra treat on top of the food to entice him.
Next, make the grass a fun place to be. Toss a few treats into the grass for him to track down. Play games, like fetch, to reengage him, so he will hopefully forget where his paws are landing.
While he may do "his business" when he's ready, he also may get constipated in between. Add a little pumpkin to his food (not pumpkin filling) to keep his bowels moving.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.