Author: Dione L. Black, LVT
For most American families, Independence Day is a day filled with BBQ, fun and fireworks. Communities enjoy watching the colorful and dazzling displays of lights that sparkle and light up the night sky. The bangs, booms and whistles that accompany these displays only add to our excitement. For most pets, however, the 4th of July is filled with terror and fear.
Animals have a more sensitive sense of hearing than humans do, so noises that are a little loud to us are downright deafening to them. When panicked, our pets will do most anything to get away from a frightening situation. They will break tethers, jump through glass windows and even scale tall fences if necessary. With a little pre-planning you, as a pet owner, can make Independence Day a fun and exiting day for you as well as your pets.
The following is a list of tips to make your pets feel safe and secure.
· If possible, it is highly recommended to desensitize your pet to loud noises before the festivities of Independence Day begin. The use of compact discs with recordings of loud and scary noises such as firework explosions, trains, thunder etc… can be used to aid in the desensitization of your pet. Start with the volume down low and gradually increase it to a loud level.
· Do not take your pet to firework displays!! Pets have been known to bolt from owners once the show begins only to be hit by cars in thier mad dash to find somewhere to hide.
· Know when fireworks will be happening in your neighborhood by contacting your local city hall. Mark the dates on your calendar.
· Never let off fireworks near or next to your pet. If ignited to close to your pet, fireworks can cause very painful burns to the body, face, nose and mouth in addition to the psychological trauma they are sure to produce.
· Never leave your pet outside loose in the yard, kennel or tethered. They will have no place to go and the combination of restraint and noise will traumatize them even more.
· Make sure all of your pets wear an appropriate fitting collar with proper identification attached, such as a rabies tag or tag with their name, address and phone number on it. Microchipping your pet is also highly recommended.
· Walk your dog at least 1 hour before the sun sets to prevent exposure to the fireworks. Take an extra long walk to use up his extra energy if possible.
· Keep your pets inside the house, garage or basement on the night of the 4th. Make sure there is nothing of value in the room your pet might accidentally break in their moments of panic. It is also a good idea to unplug floor and table lamps and leave fireplaces unlit.
· Feed and water your pet a few hours before confining them to the house or kennel. Make sure you walk them one more time before their confinement begins.
· Provide kennels or other “safe places” for your pets to hide. Cover the kennels with blankets to dampen the noise.
· Turn on the TV or radio to help drown out the noise of the fireworks to minimize your pets’ exposure to the noise. Keep the volume at a normal level; turning it up too loud may only increase your pets’ anxiety.
· Make sure all doors and windows are securely shut and locked. Shut all blinds and drapes to minimize visual stimuli. If necessary, put your pet in a room with no windows, such as the basement.
· Do not shut off all the lights in the house. By leaving some of the lights on your pet will be calmer and will also reduce the flashes of light affecting your pet. Leaving them in a pitch black room will only frighten them further.
· If your pet gets excessively distraught by loud noises, experts recommend that you stay home with your pet. Tranquilizers or sedatives may be necessary. Contact your family veterinarian to discuss this option.
· If your pet is anxious and behaves nervously by crying, whining or pacing back and forth, try and distract your pet with chew toys or by playing with it or doing something else it enjoys.
· Never punish your pet for its reaction to fireworks or other loud noises.
· Petting or reassuring your pet by saying “it’s okay” or “don’t be afraid” can actually reinforce her nervousness and fear. Instead ignore the behavior and try to redirect her attention.
· Act normally even though your pet is acting abnormally. Talk in a normal voice and do the things you would normally do at that time of the night, such as making dinner or doing the laundry. Your pets take their cues from you so if you act secure and confident so will they. If you act nervous and agitated, your pet will act the same.
· Never leave a noise phobia pet with friends unless they are acutely aware of your pets’ behavior and what they will need to do to calm your pet down. Only leave your pet with someone your pet knows and is comfortable with. Leaving your pet with strangers may only increase their anxiety.
· Once you are sure the fireworks are over, check on your pet. Let them out into the house first to make sure they are okay before letting them outside. Check your pet for signs of stress. If your pets show any signs of stress it is probably better to keep them in for the night and let them out in the morning when there stress has subsided.
Signs of stress in cats include running away and hiding, inappropriate urination or defecation, cowering, trembling/shaking, panting, vocalizing and refusing to eat.
Signs of stress in dogs include pacing, panting,
inappropriate barking, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling/shaking and refusal to eat.
· Before letting your pet outside, do a sweep of your yard to make sure there are no spent fireworks or other hazards laying around that your pet may come in contact with.
· Fireworks contain dangerous chemicals that can cause vomiting, a painful abdomen and bloody diarrhea. More severe reactions such as seizures, tremors and kidney or liver failure may occur depending on the ingredients in the firework ingested. If your pet ingests any fireworks contact your family veterinarian, your nearest emergency veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 for medical advice immediately.
· If your pet does escape, contact your local Humane Society or Animal Control as soon as possible and your local veterinarians. Putting your pets name and photo on such on-line sites as Craig’s List may also facilitate the safe return of your pet.
When it comes to pets and fireworks, prevention is the key. By following the tips above you can minimize the stress and fear your pet will experience while the entire nation celebrates an extremely significant day in American History.
Sources and Citations
How to Look After Pets During Fireworks: 10 steps