The Fourth of July Fireworks and Your Pet
By Dr. Bruce Little
Each year at this time many pet owners are faced with the Fourth of July fireworks and their pets. Although many dogs don’t seem to be bothered by the sounds and sights of fireworks, others become totally terrified during this annual celebration. These frightened dogs will show signs of apprehension and anxiety at the first sound of the explosions of fireworks as well as the flash that is associated with them. For those dogs that express mild distress during the traditional fireworks on this holiday, you may be able to control their fear satisfactorily by closing them in a basement or otherwise dark room. Close the blinds and play music on the radio or stereo and this might be enough to cover the noise and flash that makes them exhibit this distress. If you live close to the annual fireworks display in your town, this method might not be enough to cover the sounds and sights of this event and you may have to resort to stronger methods to relieve them of their fear.
There are several products that can be purchased at pet stores that may help your dog overcome his anxiety during fireworks as well as thunderstorms. There is a product called a Thundershirt that is placed on the dog’s body that acts to create the presence of acupressure that is said to help some dogs. A hood that fits over the dog’s head called a Calming Cap is recommended by some behavioral experts who report the cap will lessen the anxiety seen in some dogs. There are various calming sprays and hormone solutions that may lessen the fear in these situations. All these products are available at pet stores across the country.
One must remember that dogs hear many times greater than humans amplifying these sounds to 2 ½ times more decibels than what humans hear. Therefore, using cotton plugs or ear plugs of any sort in dogs to lessen the effect of sounds and noises may have limited impact. Perhaps the best remedial process for dealing with fear of fireworks is to work with the dog in advance of the holiday to help him become accustomed to and tolerant of fireworks displays. A very good source for a training guide can be found free of charge at British Animal Behavior Counselor, Karen Wild, at dogsandfireworks.com. You can download a free training guide and an MP3 recording of the sounds and sights of a fireworks display. If successful in changing the behavior of your dog, you will no longer have to concern yourself with preparing for fireworks displays and activities around this holiday.
The above tips may or may not help your dog in your circumstance. If that is the case, consult your veterinarian about the use of anti-anxiety drugs that are available for use in cases of fear of fireworks or other loud noises and flashes of light such as lightning and thunder. There are a variety of drugs that are tailored to fit certain degrees of anxiety including tranquilizers and herbal medicines. The drugs need to be compatible with the conditions your dog exhibits. Your veterinarian will know how to determine which drug is most likely to be successful.
It is never a good idea to leave your dog at home by himself during fireworks activities. If fear overtakes them, they are subject to go to great lengths to escape the cause of their fear. More dogs are lost during the Fourth of July activities than any other time of the year. They might dig under a fence, breach the electronic fence, jump over the fence or dart through an open door to escape. They might chew through the wall to escape a room that gives them access to an exit from the house or other enclosure in which they have been placed. Be sure your dog is protected with an electronic microchip so if he does go missing, he can be returned to his owner upon rescue.
In general terms, cats do not seem to have as many issues with fireworks and thunderstorms as dogs. Some do become frightened; however, many cats will simply find a place to hide such as under the bed or behind the couch or some other safe haven to sit out the intrusion. The best thing to do is leave them there until the fireworks or thunderstorms pass.