Fireworks … most of us love them. But for dogs, it’s a whole different story.
“Dogs commonly become anxious or fearful around loud and unpredictable noises — which would certainly include fireworks that take place on, and around, the Fourth of July,” said Dr. Sarah Nold, staff veterinarian at Trupanion, a leader in medical insurance for pets.
In fact, Trupanion receives more anxiety-related claims (on average 45% more) in July than any other month of the year.
Nold suggests these three things to consider to help your pet during the Fourth of July firework celebrations.
1. Make sure your dog has access to a familiar environment — whether you’re at home with them or not — where they will feel most secure. This could include:
• their kennel
• your bedroom
• a gated-off area where your dog spends a lot of their time
2. You also can leave the television or radio on, or just turn on a fan in the room to help sound-sensitive pets get through the evening.
3. Body wraps, pheromone diffusers and calming collars may help some dogs. In severely anxious dogs, anxiety medication could be necessary.
Talk to your veterinarian to determine what treatment, or often combination of treatments, are best for your dog.
Additional tips to consider:
Beat the heat: If your Fourth of July plans involve being outdoors with your dog, make sure your pet has access to shade and plenty of water throughout the day. During the month of July in past years, Trupanion has paid out more than $16,000 in dehydration claims alone.
Barbecue buster: Nothing says the Fourth like firing up the grill, but avoid the temptation of feeding your dog table scraps, which can cause a serious stomach ache. Beware of bones and corn-on-the-cob, as well, to avoid any unexpected trips to the veterinarian.
Keep identification on your pet at all times: Unfortunately, many pets get lost during the first week in July, especially on July 4. Even if you follow all of these tips, your stressed pet may find a way to get out of the house. Always keep an ID on your pet with updated information.
The University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana also offers some advice in a past article to help keep pets safe during Fourth of July festivities.
To begin with, ingesting fireworks can be potentially toxic for pets. Many fireworks contain potassium nitrate or heavy metals that can cause gastrointestinal upset or neurologic problems. Pets that get too close to fireworks are also at risk of getting burned.
Remember that dogs don’t know the difference between a firework and a toy. If you light a firework and throw it, your dog might assume it’s a game of fetch, so don’t allow your dog in the area with dangerous explosives.
It’s also important to consider that debris from the festivities does not disappear overnight. Be on the lookout when walking your dog during this season to make sure that none of the used fireworks end up in your dog’s mouth.
Although your first instinct might be to bring your dog with you in order to provide some TLC, most dogs are best off staying home on the Fourth of July, and certainly those that are afraid of loud noises or anxious around large crowds should not be taken to a fireworks celebration.
How do you know when your pet’s noise-related anxiety is severe enough to seek help? You should contact your veterinarian if you notice that your dog repeatedly reacts to a loud noise in one or more of the following ways:
• Trembling or shaking
• Following you closely/seeming clingy
• Panting or drooling
• Pacing or appearing restless
• Whining or barking
• Appearing hypervigilant (continuously looking around as if danger is nearby)
• Attempting to escape or chewing on furniture, walls, or crate
Reducing exposure to the noise and lights by closing windows and blinds, turning on the TV or radio, or distracting the dog with bones or puzzle toys may be sufficient to keep your pet calm. However, your veterinarian may also recommend medication to reduce anxiety. Over-the-counter options usually aren’t as effective.
July 5 is one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters. This is because dogs and cats, both indoor and outdoor pets, panic during the loud fireworks and run away in distress.
To make sure this doesn’t happen to your pets, keep them at home in a secure location on July 4. If you must bring your dog with you, make sure he is leashed, has an up-to-date microchip, and is wearing a name tag with contact information.