In less than one week, people across the United States will be setting off fireworks to help celebrate the Fourth of July. (Some have even jump started the festivities.) While this long-held tradition captures the attention of many with its vibrant display of colors and electrifying sounds, it can be terrifying for our pets, and even deadly for frightened pets that run away due to the noise, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
"Even pets that are not usually sensitive to loud sounds and noise can become extremely stressed due to the sound of fireworks," said John Howe, DVM, president of the AVMA. "It’s hard not to feel helpless when you see them shaking and panting and so obviously distressed. But with a little advance planning and preparation you can ease your pets’ anxiety and help get them through this time."
The AVMA offers the following advice to help you keep your pets calm while fireworks are going off:
Get plenty of exercise.
"Taking your dogs out for play and exercise earlier in the day, besides being a healthy thing to do, can help burn off extra energy, limiting their anxiety later and helping them rest more soundly at home," officials said.
Make sure ID is up to date.
"Be certain your pet has up-to-date identification tags and their microchip has your correct contact information," officials added. "Highly stressed pets could look for any opportunity to escape the noise; having up-to-date identification can help ensure your pet makes it home safely if they run away."
Give them a safe space.
"Keep your pets indoors," officials said. "Cats often feel most secure in a covered spot that is elevated off the ground, like a hut in an indoor cat tree; dogs might need a little extra help finding a good spot to retreat. Try to find a spot in the quietest, most secure room possible to put your dog’s crate or bed. Keep windows and curtains closed to further muffle sounds. Experiment to see what works best for your dog, such as lowering the lights or covering the crate with a blanket."
Dress for success.
"Some pets seem to feel more secure in snug-fitting shirts designed specifically for this purpose," officials said. "Talk to your veterinarian about what options are available."
Set an example.
"Our pets may look to us to see how we are reacting and be influenced by our behavior, so try to remain calm during fireworks—even if they bother you as well," officials further noted. "Try not to react too strongly to your pets’ distress."
Replace scary sounds with soothing sounds.
"White noise, music or television can be used to provide comfortable, familiar sounds that drown out or muffle the frightening and unexpected sound of fireworks," officials said. "Ask friends for playlists that work for their pets."
Occupy pets with new (or favorite old) toys.
"You can help distract your pets by introducing new toys and treats into the house," officials added. "Food puzzles and long-lasting treats can be a great way to keep them distracted from noises that frighten them."
Consult with your veterinarian.
"If the problem persists or seems insurmountable, talk to your veterinarian about a plan that may include further behavior modification and/or medical intervention," officials noted. "Make that appointment as soon as possible to ensure a holistic plan is in place before the fireworks begin."