Does CBD Help Dogs with Fireworks?

Jun 15, 2022

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the in-thing given the ever-growing number of people swearing by its health-impacting properties. At this moment, it’s almost certain that CBD can offer relief from:

  • Non-cancer pain

  • Inflammation

  • Oxidative stress

  • The symptoms of a rare type of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome)

So with so much going for CBD, perhaps it’s time to find out if its much-touted health benefits can be extended to our canine friends. 

In particular, does CBD help dogs with fireworks?

 

Why do dogs fear fireworks?

 

Dogs are supposed to be our protectors and companions; this is why most of us keep them. 

Their much-reputed loyalty means we can rely on them to tell us when something’s amiss. It may not be so much when they growl and bark that we know something’s wrong; tail tucking and raised hackles (piloerection) are also classic signs of stress, fear, or arousal in dogs. 

Your dog will likely display these signs in response to the loud and crackling noise caused by fireworks. Of course, fireworks complement the celebratory mood and heighten the fun, but some dogs don’t just love them! 

Want to know why?

 

Dogs have super sensitive hearing senses

 

It all comes down to their super-sensitive auditory senses. Like their well-developed olfactory faculties, dogs can hear twice as many sound frequencies as humans. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs can hear sounds in the negative decibels range (-5Hz to -15Hz). These frequencies are too low for us to hear. 

So you can imagine how dogs feel when fireworks crack. It’s this simple – any sound that’s loud enough for us to hear is probably 3-4 times louder for dogs!

 

Dogs can’t predict fireworks

 

More importantly, dogs have had to internalize normal sounds and those that are not, thanks to a process known as early life conditioning. Otherwise, they’d be constantly on edge given the different sounds and wide-ranging frequencies they can hear.

This explains why a car horn, children shrieking, or loud music won’t scare your dog as much as the cracking sound of fireworks. In fact, isn’t it surprising that thunderstorms don’t really scare dogs, but fireworks do? 

The logic—it seems—is that dogs can predict thunder thanks to barometric pressure and wind speed changes. They can pick up these changes and anticipate a storm. So when the thunder claps, they don’t get frightened.

Interestingly, dogs are believed to have such a good sense of hearing that they can predict earthquakes! They do this using the same mechanism that enables them to detect someone at the door even before they knock. 

 

Noise and unpredictability equal threat!

 

Because dogs can’t tell when a firecracker will go off (coupled with the high noise levels), they perceive loud crackling sounds as dangerous. Moreover, few people condition their dogs to dysregulate the sound of firecrackers. 

Any loud sound a dog is not familiar with will make it nervous. Usually, this triggers their flight-of-fight response. You actually don’t have to be loud to startle a dog.

Try creeping up on your dog when it’s sleeping. Its reaction will tell you it doesn’t like that.

 

It makes them feel trapped

 

Often, your dog will most probably want to run away and hide somewhere safe from the noise. But they cannot go anywhere since we fire up those firecrackers with them locked in their sheds or kennels. This makes them feel trapped and vulnerable and compounds their misery! 

 

How to tell if a dog is scared

 

Dogs use body language to communicate with people. If we can interpret these signs well, we can pretty much tell what’s going on in their minds. So, here are the signs to look out for when your dog is scared or stressed.

 

Whining

 

This is interesting because apparently, dogs cannot control whining! It’s their automatic response to stress, pain, or discomfort. Whining is often associated with puppies, but adult dogs also whine. So when you hear your adult Great Dane whining, something must be very wrong.

 

Barking and growling

 

You’ve probably heard dogs bark often in your neighborhood without really bothering to understand why. However, this is their way of telling us they are anxious, excited, or stressed about something. 

Sometimes, a dog can bark when it’s animated. However, dog experts contend that barks are different depending on the message the dog is trying to pass. For example, a low-pitched bark often denotes a serious threat.

On the other hand, high-pitched barking is usually synonymous with play or loneliness.

The barking sequence also helps you understand a dog’s message better. For instance, when a dog barks consistently, it indicates it’s surely worked up about something, e.g., an intruder. However, a single bark may be a warning or a response to surprise. 

You may also want to pay attention to the duration between barks. A shorter space between barks more often signifies aggression, i.e., the dog is priming to attack. Conversely, longer spaces between long-tailed barks, i.e., drawn-out, may mean the dog is complaining about loneliness.

 

Body language

 

Looking at a dog’s body is probably the best way to tell if it’s stressed. In fact, Norwegian dog trainer Turid Rugaas has written several books on dogs’ body language, including 30 ways dogs try to calm themselves.

Stress signs include cowering, whale eye (when it reveals the eye whites), tucked tails, raised hackles, flattened ears, avoiding eye contact, trembling, and clinginess. The dog may also lick its nose. 

The good thing is that dogs don’t display these signs in isolation; they will likely exhibit 3-5 signs simultaneously. This makes it easier to read them better.

 

Pacing

 

Yes, dogs pace too! This may sound familiar because many people pace when something is bothering them, but research shows that our canine friends are pacers too. But context is key. 

Pacing for short periods or during meals might mean something less serious. However, prolonged pacing signifies restlessness.

In older dogs, pacing is linked to dementia. Unfortunately, this may mean it’s time to book a date with the veterinarian. 

 

Freezing

 

Unless you’ve been attacked by a dog, you may not be familiar with this sign. Dogs freeze when their stress levels are so high they cannot handle the situation. This can be dangerous because it always almost means they’ll attack. 

Freezing is often accompanied by teeth-baring and growling. 

Keep in mind, however, that dogs, like humans, are not the same. So their behavior is often a function of their temperament. Much like some people shed tears of happiness, some of our canine friends growl while eating or playing! 

So as much as context matters, it also helps to know about the dog’s personality.

 

How to help a dog with a fear of fireworks

 

The easiest way to calm a stressed dog is by removing the stressor. But it’s not practical to forbid your neighbors from lighting up firecrackers so your dog can have peace. Therefore, there are alternative ways to help your dog with the fear of fireworks.

 

Desensitize and award calm behavior with CBD treats 

 

You can start by desensitizing the dog early to sounds they are known to react fearfully to later in life. When they are pups (3 weeks to 3 months old), you can positively expose them to different sounds like train whistles, firecrackers, car horns, and thunder. 

You can do this by giving them their favorite CBD treat or reassuringly holding them during the exposure. 

Eventually, they learn to tune out the sound by linking it with positive outcomes. In any case, firecrackers denote celebrations which means food, right? So ensure your dog also participates in the festivities by giving it CBD treats during such times.

CBD may be vital in reducing aggression levels in dogs. Indeed, a study by the University of Western Australia found that dogs given CBD for 15 days were less aggressive toward humans. For this reason, dog owners often use CBD to curb anxiety and noise reactivity in their pets.

 

Aid noise phobia and anxiety with regular use of CBD oil 

 

Research shows that pups have a time frame to learn the world. This means knowing and differentiating normal sounds and those that denote danger. This normally happens when they are three to 12 weeks old. 

After this period, they start developing a fear response mechanism. Anything or sound that frightens them from this point onwards becomes an aversion. 

You can also help your dog by creating a safe area for it. This place should ideally be soundproof and comfortable. Throw in a nice hearty meal infused with CBD oil to help calm your dog and reduce anxiety. This is much easier to achieve if the dog is crate-trained. 

Otherwise, you can designate an area in the house as the dog’s ‘safe house.’  

 

Manage nausea and digestive issues with CBD

 

Nausea is a pretty common problem in cats and dogs. In dogs, it’s much harder to define because they can’t talk. Nonetheless, the common symptoms to watch out for are restlessness, excessive drooling, licking, and lack of appetite.  

Animal studies show that CBD may help suppress nausea thanks to its interaction with serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a mood hormone that plays many roles in the body, including influencing a person’s overall well-being.  

Even though CBD may have a role in alleviating nausea, researchers contend that THC may play a more dominant role. According to human studies, a THC and CBD combination is more effective in reducing nausea in people undergoing chemotherapy. 

For this reason, it’s better to use broad-spectrum CBD for your dog. It’s believed that CBD works better in conjunction with other cannabinoids found in marijuana known as terpenes. However, THC is known to cause toxicity and even death in dogs. 

So, go with broad-spectrum, not full-spectrum CBD.

 

What can I give my dog for fear of fireworks?

 

Thus far, it’s been shown that melatonin is the best natural supplement for dogs with anxiety and stress. The good thing is these supplements are readily available at health food stores. The usual dose is 1 to 4 milligrams. 

However, body weight is the best determinant of dosage. It would seem that the heavier the animal, the higher the dosage.

 

Does CBD oil help dogs with fireworks?

 

A growing number of animal studies indicate that CBD can help animals overcome anxiety. For instance, a 2012 rat study investigating stress in rats showed that repeated doses of CBD could lead to lower stress levels. 

So while we can’t conclusively say that CBD will reduce anxiety in dogs, research findings show much promise to this effect. 

Researchers believe CBD’s anxiolytic effects may be linked to its role in regulating serotonin production. This hormone plays a role in regulating social behavior, mood, appetite, and sleep.

So if your dog is easily stressed by loud noises such as those caused by firecrackers, CBD may help calm the dog.

 

Can I give my dog CBD oil for fireworks?

 

Sure. Many dog owners are increasingly using CBD oil for a wide range of conditions for their four-legged friends. From arthritis to cancer to itchiness to anxiety, anecdotal reports attest to CBD’s considerable success in combating these conditions. 

Many dogs are fear-struck by the loud crackling noise and flashing lights caused by firecrackers. It’s understandable; dogs do not take well to being bombarded by chaos.

Thankfully, you can infuse CBD oil into your dog’s food to help it stave off panic attacks.

 

How much CBD to give a dog for fireworks

 

The correct CBD dosage for your dog depends on its body weight. Dog experts recommend 0.1 to 0.2 milligrams of CBD per kilogram of bodyweight. This should be given orally twice daily.

 It’s not easy to tell whether the CBD has the desired effect on the dog, so be extra keen before increasing the dosage. Watch for signs of improvement or lack thereof. 

Remember that with CBD, more is not always better.

 

Other ways to calm your pet

 

Ultimately, dogs, like children, learn from their environments. How you respond in a stressful situation dictates, to some extent, how your dog will react. Dogs often look up to their owners for reassurance, so it’s important to remain calm to communicate to your dog that there is no real threat to their safety.

Thundershirts and calming wraps may also help. These apply mild pressure on the dog and create a calming and reassuring feeling. These have been shown to be quite effective in calming stressed dogs. 

You can also drown out the noise using white noise or “Through a dog’s ear” CD. These are designed and manufactured by sound scientists and veterinarians to calm anxious dogs by dampening loud sounds. It also helps to draw the curtains and keep the lights on (at night) to camouflage sudden light bursts from firecrackers.

Alternatively, you can play music when the fireworks are going off to drown the sound. 

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