When fireworks frighten Fido
July Fourth can be a scary time for pets, so here’s how to comfort them during the celebration
July Fourth feels more like Halloween for many pets: It’s scary, unpredictable and nerve-rattling. All tricks, no treats — and that causes many a freaked-out furry friend to bolt. In fact, it’s a common day for pets to go missing. The noise, the sight and even the smell of Independence Day fireworks are disturbing to dogs and cats of all ages and breeds.
When July’s first fireworks pop, dogs may hide under a bed, begin barking in agitation, break housetraining, go on a chewing frenzy or even injure themselves trying to escape the scary sounds. Cats may show their distress by hiding and/or avoiding the litter box.
Summer storms are scary, too
Fireworks aren’t the only thing that may frighten a dog around this holiday. The arrival of new people, crowded gatherings, and strange sounds and smells may also make a dog or cat fearful.
Sensitive cats and dogs may begin to show signs of fear as a summer storm approaches1. Whether your pet is sensitive to lightning, thunder, howling wind, the smells, or even the change in barometric pressure, a storm can set off a series of behaviors that can be alarming to you and dangerous for your pet. Know how to calm your dog or cat if that occurs.
It’s best to start gradually desensitizing your pet to loud noises, so you’re both well prepared and ready when thunder rumbles. Talk to your veterinarian about the best approach. But if your pet is still anxious when a storm hits, you can take some additional steps to calm him.
For frightened dogs, try to show your dog that storms don’t have to be scary. Relocate with your dog to a windowless room or a basement where exposure to the storm will be reduced. Speak in a calm, gentle voice. Play soothing music loud enough to drown out the thunder or fireworks. Consider setting aside particular toys or treats for use only during a storm so that your pet associates the frightening stimulus with a pleasant experience2.
For “scaredy” cats, thunder typically isn’t as big a problem as it is for dogs. Cats’ storm behavior typically involves hiding in a place with less noise3. If you do have cat-storm problems, they can be treated in many of the same ways you would deal with a dog. Take your cat to the quietest place in your home or distract the cat using treats or other engaging items such as a favorite toy or laser pointer.
If behavioral fixes don’t seem to be working, speak with your veterinarian. Prescription anxiety medications can help. Calming pheromone sprays and other solutions for reducing stress are available as well.
If your dog or cat disappears
All kinds of loud noises can trigger the emotional fight or flight mechanism in a canine or feline brain. Some pets will run and some will hide as if their life depended upon it1. Be prepared beforehand: get your pet a HomeAgain® microchip and make sure your chip’s registration information stays up to date.
That way, if the unthinkable happens and your pet is lost, HomeAgain’s Lost Pet Specialists will be there. Lost Pet Specialists are on standby throughout the holiday (as well as every day of the year) to help pet parents if the sounds of July Fourth cause frantic pets to escape.
- Blackwell E., Bradshaw J., Casey R. (2013). Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors and co-occurrence with other fear-related behavior. Science Direct. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2012.12.004
- How to Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks on the 4th of July by Meg Marrs. https://www.k9ofmine.com/calm-dog-during-fireworks/
- How do fireworks affect cats and how do I help my scared cat? by Vets Now Team Member. https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/how-do-fireworks-affect-cats/
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