Pets and Fireworks: How to Protect Animals on July 4th


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Not to mention that when dogs are scared, they run away and owners can lose their best friends at night.

“Dogs have been known to dig under or jump over fences, break ropes or even break windows in response to fear of fireworks,” said Best Friends Animal Society, one of the country’s oldest no-kill agencies.

This allows dogs to run free, potentially hit by cars, picked up by strangers, and even turned into local shelters, which may still have limited hours due to the pandemic. Fearful pet owners can encounter obstacles in identifying and rescuing their pet.

Hazard to all types of pets

Statistics show that at least 40% of dogs have noise phobias, which can include fear of thunderstorms, leaf blowers, drills, and even hair dryers. But these noises are relatively constant, experts say, while fireworks are terrifyingly sporadic and therefore unexpected.

“Many animals associate loud noises with danger,” said Dr. Michelle Lugones, Veterinarian for the Best Friends Animal Society. “From an evolutionary point of view, they’re wired to avoid perceived threats, so it’s not surprising that fireworks are embarrassing to many animals.”

It’s not just dogs. Cats and many other pets and wild animals have sensitive hearing that nature provides to find and hunt prey.

“It is very likely that cats suffer from fireworks phobia as much as dogs,” said Lugones. “But because cats tend to be more independent at home and usually run and hide in fearful situations, their owners may not notice that they are being plagued by fireworks.”

Before the July 4th fireworks celebrations, prepare to protect your animal companions.

Small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs are prey animals and are therefore easily stressed, Lugones continued, adding that “Unfortunately, rabbits can die of even extreme fear, especially if they have an underlying disease. They can also get injured if they try to escape.”

Cows are social animals, Lugones said, so loud noises could scare an entire herd, while horses are also prey that can easily be frightened by fireworks.

“How reptiles and birds react to fireworks may be less understood, but they too have stress responses, so precautions should be taken for them,” she said.

Prepare your pet before dark

The key to helping your pet survive this scary onslaught is preparation, said Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Tags and microchips. Make sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with current dog tags, Kratt said. If your pet has a microchip, make sure your correct contact details are on file with the veterinary clinic or shelter that implanted the chip.

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That way, if your pet escapes into the night, you can immediately call the vet or shelter and let them know about their absence.

Exercise before dark. A tired dog is a calm dog. A lucky cat is a more relaxed cat, said Kratt. Give your cats a little more playtime and take dogs with you to play and exercise long before dark. Such activities burn off extra energy, reducing anxiety later when it is time to sleep.

Bring all pets indoors. Don’t leave your pet alone to suffer alone. Put a dog crate or dog bed in the quietest, most enclosed space possible, Kratt said.

“Keep the windows and curtains closed to muffle any other noise and take some time to see what works best for your dog, such as the dog’s head.

Cats like to go high up to feel safe, so give them a covered, cozy den that is above the ground, like a hut on an indoor scratching post or in a closet.

Distract your pet. Offer lots of new toys and long-lasting chews and treats. Food puzzles can also distract you from the annoying noises.

Use calming tools. Many pets respond to a “thunder” shirt or blanket wrapping them in a heavy, calming cocoon. Cats and dogs often enjoy smelling species-specific pheromones. Cats can wear collars with scents that mimic the mother cats’ pheromone to soothe their kittens. Dogs respond to the odor of lactating bitches, appropriately referred to as the “dog pheromone” or DAP.

Use soothing sounds. First, muffle the sounds by closing curtains and doors near your pet. Soothing music or white noise like fans or televisions – but not too loud – can be used to create pleasant, familiar sounds.

Humans also have to stay calm. If you don’t like fireworks either, try to stay calm around your pet anyway, Kratt said.

“Our pets can look at us to see how we’re reacting and being influenced by our behavior,” he said. “Don’t overreact to fireworks or the plight of your pets.”

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Use medication as a last resort. While there is nothing wrong with reaching out to your veterinarian for sedative medication, experts fear that pet owners could count on it first without following the behavior change tips above. But if you’ve tried all of these ideas and your furry friend is still in a panic, reach out to your veterinarian for advice.

Keep animals away from your fireworks. If your pet is not bothered by the noise and you plan on setting off your own fireworks, make sure your pet is indoors and secured. Some dogs could “chase after bright, moving objects and run the risk of being burned or blinded in the process,” says Best Friends Animal Society.

In addition, many fireworks contain “substances that are toxic if swallowed”. So keep your fireworks safe where a pet can’t find them.

When the fireworks end

The dangers to pets go beyond exploding fireworks, Kratt said.

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“The fourth poses several other risks to our pets, such as an abundance of unhealthy and accessible food at parties, dangerous summer heat, and dangerous debris on the floor after fireworks,” said Kratt.

Before releasing your pet in the yard the next day, carefully inspect them for debris and bits of exploded fireworks.

“Even if you haven’t set off fireworks yourself, debris can get into your garden, where curious animals pick it up to play with or eat,” said Kratt.

Used and unused fireworks are poisonous to pets, Lugones said.

“Depending on the chemicals they contain, fireworks can cause severe gastrointestinal complaints such as vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and foreign body obstruction,” she said. “They can also cause acute kidney failure, difficulty breathing, and seizures. If you are concerned that your pet has ingested fireworks, see a veterinarian right away.”

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