Bombs bursting in air on the Fourth of July may make you feel patriotic, but your pet may be frightened.  The holiday fireworks and other fanfare are often frightful experiences for pets, especially since loud noises can hurt their sensitive ears.  Many animals are traumatized by loud fireworks during the holiday celebrations.  The fireworks, aircraft and other related noises may turn your pets into a quivering mass of jelly or have them bolt as a result of their fright; they may also be destructive to the home, or even worse, to themselves.  According to behavior specialist Dr. Elizabeth Shull, low-frequency, percussive noises such as fireworks trigger wild fear in about 20% of pets.  Under such circumstances, ordinarily well-behaved pets may become aggressive, destructive and/or unpredictable.

      Some animals do fine and don't seem to notice the fireworks.  Others do well with just having their parents near.  And then there are some pets that cannot be calmed by petting or talking to them - they are simply too upset.  If the holiday is right around the corner, there are a couple of things you can do to assist your pets through this short period of potential trauma.  Animals that are frightened/stressed can hurt themselves and possibly escape if left alone, and the results can be fatal.  Frightened animals running loose are in great danger of being hit by a car.  For these animals, it is best to provide a safe place, such as a carrier, to be in while the fireworks last.  This alone may be enough of a comfort to soothe some pets.  If the carrier is not enough to calm the animal, medication (in the form of a tranquilizer) may be warranted.  Tranquilizers are not for every pet!  Talk to your vet about medical options that are suitable for your dog.

If you have some time before the holiday approaches, there are ways to desensitize a pet to fireworks, but it does take time and preplanning.  To help your pet become accustomed to loud noises, you can try some behavior modification.  This technique involves playing a recording of the sound at very low levels.  You can find a CD of fireworks at A1FreeSoundEffects.  Use the time to reassure your pet that everything is fine.  Gradually increase the volume slowly over time, as your pet is able to handle the sounds without getting stressed.  This technique does require time and patience for it to be effective.  Start slow, and do short sessions only at first.  Praising the pet for remaining calm is important.  Be careful not to overdo praising, you want the pet to feel that this "situation is as normal" as possible.  Rather than cuddle a frightened dog, try to distract the dog from the disturbing noises with physical activity such as playing ball.  You must understand that "comforting" your pet, although done with good intentions, can actually reinforce the fear and panic.  You could call it "training by accident " and it is best to refrain from this coddling.  Reassuring your pet is different from the cuddling, petting, holding and trying to physically relieve the stress.  The age of your pet, socialization, experience and breed can also influence their reactions.

As many pet owners know, fireworks can cause a great deal of stress for some animals.  Commonly seen signs include: shaking, trembling; excessive drooling; barking, howling; trying to hide or get into/out of the house, fence or other enclosure; refusing to eat food; and/or some animals may loose bladder or bowel control or experience temporary diarrhea from prolonged stress.  Please note: These signs are general, and could be indicative of many different diseases or conditions.  Please consult with your veterinarian if these signs persist after fireworks subside, or if you suspect that your pet may otherwise be ill.

So, what if you donít have the time to acclimate the dog to the holiday?  You need to take precautions to ensure their safety and well-being.  Here are some tips to help your pet and you have a safe and happy 4th of July.

  • Leave the dog at home!!!!  Never take a pet to a fireworks display!!!

  • If you go out, do NOT make a big production of leaving.  This will tell him that something is up and you are worried (and therefore he should be too).

  • Keep your pets indoors!  An animal in a backyard may dig, jump and become injured and lost in an effort to try and escape the fireworks booming overhead.  And one in the home may try to go right through the bay window in the living room.  Find a windowless, quiet and safe spot in the home where bedding, water and food can be setup. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure that you've removed any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed.

  • If your pet has a favorite pillow, blanket or toy, make sure itís available for them.

  • Leave the radio or television on when you leave.  The noise will help occupy your pet and detract from the sound of the fireworks.

  • Don't forget to watch out for guests opening doors up which can provide an opportunity for animals to bolt out.

  • Have a family member stay with your pet while the fireworks are underway.

  • Consider boarding your pet for the night in a secure boarding facility.  (Call us and we would be happy to recommend a reputable facility.)

  • If your pet becomes frightened, allow it to hide under the bed or in a closet.  Wait for your pet to come out on its own. Do not pull the frightened pet out of its hiding place.

  • Make sure all dogs are wearing ID tags.

  • If you think your pet may become agitated, discuss the possibility of tranquilizers with your veterinarian.

If your pet does run away during the fireworks, post signs in your neighborhood with a photo or description of your pet and telephone numbers where you can be contacted.  Be sure to contact your nearest animal control facility and then stay in contact.

If you have found a lost companion animal, please take him to your local animal control or rescue agency right away, and place "Found" notices around the spot where you first rescued him.  Chances are he belongs to someone, and that someone is worried.

Practice fire safety.  Keep pets away from matches, open fires and fireworks - especially ones that are lighted on the ground.  Pets may try to sniff (or eat) fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch fire if too close to the fireworks.

Keep pets away from all fireworks.  Burns, hearing loss and eye damage can occur if your pet is too close to explosions.  Dispose of all fireworks properly, in a trashcan that pets can't open.  Pets may eat leftover fragments, developing digestive problems or even serious injuries.  Also make sure that you are aware of any firework debris in your yard (even if you did not partake in the festivities, debris can travel) or on your neighborhood walks.

With vigilance, plenty of distraction and a caring pet parent, your dog will make it through this harrowing day, and return to his previously stable condition.  

Send Us An EmailStasi Malloy
4 Westowne St., Suite 403
Liberty, MO 64068
(1 block east of Hwy 291 just off Hwy 152)
Telephone:  (816) 868-9845 or
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E-mail:  stasi@abcpettraining.com