Summer Fireworks: Exciting for You, Terrifying for PetsImage credit: ©iStock.com/Janice Chen
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Holidays such as the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve come with fireworks. In fact, recently, it seems like any holiday is cause for firecrackers or fireworks – maybe it was a way to make pandemic holidays more exciting and memorable!
Regardless of the motivation for neighbors to set off fireworks, they can have a negative effect on our pets. Both cats and dogs can be disturbed by fireworks – they don’t have the benefit of a calendar to plan for this stressful event, so it’s up to us to plan for them.
Dogs and cats have a more acute sense of hearing than humans. Dogs hear sounds four times better than we can, while cats hear five times better. That means those fireworks you can barely hear sound like they’re right next to your pet. These sudden noises may initiate your pet’s “fight or flight” response, or they may feel trapped in a dangerous environment. Dogs could start to bark, pace and tremble, or try to run. Cats will pace, tremble, hide, purr loudly or hiss.
On a fireworks-forward holiday, please bring all the animals inside. A fenced yard may be enough to keep your dog safe on a normal day, but with fireworks happening all around them, even the happiest backyard dog could try to escape to get away from the noise.
Beyond staying indoors, here are some other options for dogs:
– Try to keep your dog in one small and quiet space. If necessary, play some soft music or a favorite television show. This will help minimize any reactions to fireworks.
– Calming wraps such as thunder shirts can work well during fireworks and thunderstorms. These come in shirts, wraps, and vests. The constant gentle pressure they provide really can soothe an agitated pooch.
– Try some training in the days leading up to the holiday. Play fireworks sounds at a low level, while soothing your dog and giving treats. YouTube is a great source for those videos. As time passes, gradually increase the volume of the fireworks. This may allow Fido to associate fireworks with positive moments rather than ones to fear.
– Walk your dog before dark on the days you anticipate fireworks.
– If Rover hides, don’t insist that they come out. Let them hide or play as they feel comfortable.
For cats, my advice is a little different:
– Create a safe, cozy space for your feline companion. Try a cardboard box lined with soft, comfortable blankets or cloths. Most cats feel safe higher up, so consider placing this box on a high shelf in a quieter room.
– Play music or a television show with enough volume to distract from the sound of fireworks.
– Use a pheromone plug-in diffuser such as Feliway. This can produce a calming effect in cats. Place the diffuser in the room where Fluffy spends most of their time two or three weeks before the expected fireworks.
– Demonstrate calmness and confidence at all times. Unlike dogs, cats (with rare exceptions) don’t need you to cuddle up with them to try to comfort them. If you act calm, your feline friend will likely mimic your behavior.
If your pet has a history of severe sound phobia, then you may need to talk with your vet about medications to help.
As we all look forward to resuming our typical summer activities, please use these tips for keeping pets happy and safe when fireworks and firecrackers are expected.
—Dr. Lauren Cassady is a veterinarian whose practice is limited to end-of-life care for pets. Heron’s Crossing has phone hours seven days a week and offers in-home appointments Monday through Saturday. Some evening appointments are available. Learn more at https://www.heronscrossing.vet.