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Fireworks & Pets
Fourth of July celebrations are just around the corner, which usually means fireworks! Although this is normally a fun-filled holiday for people, many pets suffer from anxiety due to the loud cracks and booms heard during these festivities. Since this is a predictable event, there’s no reason to not plan for both their sake and yours. Below are some tips to prepare your pets for the unexpected noise from upcoming fireworks displays and a few other things to be mindful about during this holiday.
- More pets are lost over the Fourth of July holiday collectively than any other time of year. Keeping your pet indoors during fireworks displays could eliminate this outcome altogether. Be sure your pets are microchipped and are wearing ID tags with not only their name but also your name and contact information to increase the odds of getting them back home, should they escape.
- If you live in a county where shooting off your fireworks is legal, be mindful that your surrounding neighbors may have pets that could be affected by the unexpected festivities. Consider giving your neighbors prior notice of when you will be shooting fireworks off nearby, so they can plan to keep their pets safe and comfortable.
- Walk your dog earlier in the day instead of at night when displays will be shooting off. This helps them burn energy to be in a calmer state once the loud booms begin and allow them to go “potty” before the show. Some animals will have accidents in the house as a fear response, so I recommend giving them a chance to release outdoors before the event! Never reprimand your pet for having an accident in response to fear. This doesn’t solve the problem, and will only increase their stress levels.
- Close all windows, doors, pet access flaps to the yard, curtains, and blinds before the show. This will help to dampen the sound of the fireworks, and will also remove any possible escape routes. Closing windows is especially important because dogs have been known to push through screens to escape.
- Play soft music, or turn the tv on to help mask the loud booms. Dogs have very sensitive ears, so make sure you don’t turn the volume up too high in an attempt to hide the firework sounds. A normal operating volume will suffice in blending the booming from outside with the tv shows or songs being played. **If you own small pets, such as hamsters or rabbits, provide them with an extra thick layer of bedding to burrow in and place their cage in an interior room where the sounds will be the most muffled. They too experience stress from the harsh sound of fireworks.
- Allow your pet to have access to their “safe spaces” in the house. If they get scared, don’t restrain them. Let them find a place they feel secure to hide and bring them comfort items such as a shirt or blanket that smells like you, and a bowl of water. Giving them access to interior rooms in the house is a good idea since the sound will be more muffled for them there.
- It is important to act normal, stay calm, and give your pet praise and snuggles for exhibiting calm behavior. This shows them that there is no cause for alarm and that they aren’t in danger, which will help them relax.
- If your dog is known to have anxiety issues, you can try dressing them in a pressure vest or a snug fitting t-shirt of yours before the fireworks start shooting off to help them feel more secure. If the anxiety is more extreme, feel free to contact your veterinarian ahead of time and see if there is an anti-anxiety medication that would be a good fit for your pet. *Always do a test run with the prescribed medications to find a dosage that is right for them before a stressful event, so you know what will work best.
- Dogs will eat just about anything they can get their mouths on, so on the days following the festivities, it is wise to do a “sweep” of your yard, neighborhood, or parks where you walk your dog to pick up any explosives or debris left behind. Fireworks contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals, so if your dog ingests them, it could cause internal damage. A great resource for any animal poison-related emergency is the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and can be contacted at (888) 426-4435. You may also call your veterinarian.
Following these steps during this month’s firework festivities will help keep your pet’s stress-free and safe, and in turn, will allow you to enjoy the celebrations without worrying about them. Be sure to spread awareness by sharing this information with your fellow pet owner friends and family members, and have fun during this summer holiday!
Credit: Robin Laclede