Last Updated on February 4, 2022 by Marco C.
If your dog is scared of fireworks, Benadryl can sound like a potential solution. Is it, however? Let’s go over the topic of your dog, fireworks, anxiety, Benadryl, and other effective solutions and tips. We’ll explain exactly what Benedryl is and we’ll also cover a few other medicinal alternatives. Of course, we’ll cover some non-medical options as well.
Can Dog Fireworks Anxiety Be Helped With Benadryl?
Let’s not beat around the bush – can you give a dog Benadryl? Yes. Can it work to alleviate fireworks anxiety or the similar stress that comes from thunderstorms and large gatherings? Yes, it can. If your dog is afraid of thunder Benadryl can help in calming your pet down.
What’s the catch? The issue is that Benadryl isn’t primarily a sedative and isn’t all that useful as one. In dogs, especially, the calming effects are pretty mild and may not be effective enough if your dog’s anxiety, stress, or panic are severe enough. And, if they are not all that severe, to begin with, one might say that sedating your dog isn’t necessary anyway.
Is Treating Dog Fireworks Anxiety With Benadryl Safe and What’s The Right Dosage?
First things first – always consult with your vet before giving your dog anything, even if it’s a mild sedative-like Benadryl. Your doctor knows your dog best and they will know what’s safe for the pup and what’s not. But, to give you a general idea – yes Benedryl is generally safe for dogs as long as you don’t give them too much. The widely viewed acceptable dose is 25 mg per 25 pounds (11 kg) of body weight.
Benedryl is available over the counter precisely because it’s safe. But do make sure that what you’re getting includes diphenhydramine only and no other additives and stimulants.
But, again, while you can use Benadryl as it is safe, remember that its potential effectiveness as a sedative can vary.
What Is Benadryl Actually For?
Benedryl’s actual purpose is to treat allergic reactions. Its generic name is diphenhydramine and it’s a type of antihistamine. What it’s great for is reducing allergy symptoms and allergic reactions, be it from bee stings, insect bites, environmental allergies, or vaccine and medication allergies. It’s also used to treat motion sickness which some dogs get when riding in a car.
Benedryl does lead to sleepiness but that’s more of a (safe) side effect than anything else. That’s where its use as a “sedative” comes from.
Other Medications That May Help
If Benadryl isn’t working for dog fireworks anxiety, there are a few other alternatives you may want to try:
- Acepromazine is a tranquilizer veterinarian often recommend. It sedates dogs much more reliably and for up to 8 hours at a time. It’s viewed as safe and it indeed is for most dogs. However, do be careful if your dog is geriatric or has some underlying heart conditions. If your dog is sensitive toward anesthetics you should also be cautious. Overall, while Acepromazine is safe, it’s not for everyone.
- Medications from the Benzodiazepine family such as Valium and Xanax are another good option. They are safer for geriatric dogs or for those with heart issues. But, overall, they are not as strong and they don’t work as reliably as Acepromazine. This puts them closer to the Benadryl side of things.
- There’s also Sileo, a dexmedetomidine drug in a gel form that’s relatively new. The gel is applied to the dog’s mouth, on the inside of the cheek. It’s fairly strong and offers reliable sedation. However, like Acepromazine, it’s not recommended for geriatric dogs and dogs with heart problems.
Non-medicinal Solutions and Tips For Alleviating Your Dog’s Fireworks Anxiety
If you don’t think your dog’s anxiety and stress are that severe and/or you’re hesitant to try medications, there are plenty of effective home remedies, non-medicinal products, and tricks you can try as well. Here are a few examples:
- Dog-appeasing pheromones
- White noise machines
- TV, radio, or music for distraction, particularly something the dog is used to hearing
- Dog anxiety vests
- Dog mats for reduced static (during thunderstorms)
- Head halters
What Should My Behavior Be When My Dog Is Freaked Out?
A lot of people think that when your dog is scared you shouldn’t comfort it as that’d reinforce the fear – it will communicate to the dog that it was right to be afraid. There’s a grain of truth to this in the sense that if you soothe the dog too much, if you snuggle with it under a blanket, and so on, the dog may draw the wrong conclusion.
However, it’s very much wrong to think that you shouldn’t comfort your dog at all when it’s stressed out. The fact that you’re ignoring your pooch in a time of need will more likely only serve to make your dog even more afraid.
Instead, the right approach is to offer comfort, to be present, to reassure your dog that you’re there, and to demonstrate that you yourself are calm. This “mixed” approach will both help your dog feel better and will indicate that there’s in fact nothing to be afraid of.
Can You Prevent Or Lessen Your Dog’s Fireworks/Thunderstorm Phobia?
The bad news is that phobias such as that one tend to get worse over time. The good news is that they can be affected and prevented. Here are a couple of extra tricks to try:
- Play your dog recordings of fireworks/thunderstorms to get him used to the sound. Start at low volume and for short intervals. If/when your dog starts ignoring the sound, turn the volume up the next time you play it.
- Start associating such phobia-inducing events with positive emotions. For example, if you don’t want your dog to freak out on New Year’s eve or 4th of July fireworks, try doing some light fireworks or firecrackers in your backyard when the dog is in a pleasant environment. Follow them up with treats and some playtime and repeat after a day or two.
In Conclusion, Your Dog, Fireworks, Anxiety, and Benadryl – Does The Latter Work For The Former?
Benadryl does work albeit from time to time and mostly for milder anxiety cases. That being said, it’s safe and sold over the counter, so it doesn’t hurt trying. Still, you can try some other tricks first and you should still talk with your vet anyway.