Fireworks are no fun for animals, and the day after a fireworks display is always busy for animal shelters and pet rescuers. It’s also a traumatic time for pet owners who realize their pets are lost. After fireworks displays, animal shelters nationwide report an increase in the number of lost cats and dogs, many of whom are found with bloody paws from running, torn skin from breaking through wooden fences, or other serious injuries.
Despite all the pleas and warnings for people to keep their pets safe and secure on the Fourth, hundreds of terrified pets run off each year and become lost and panic-stricken during the numerous fireworks celebrations. Many of them never find their way home.
Animals have much more sensitive hearing than humans. So fireworks, which even we think are loud, are painfully loud to the animals. For them, fireworks aren’t festive, they’re frightening and sometimes fatal. It’s common for dogs to leap out of windows or through screen doors, jump or dig under fences to try to escape the deafening and confusing blasts.
When I was a child, each year when the fireworks were set off in our community, I’d see many dogs running down the middle of the street trying to escape the noise of the fireworks. They were so terrified, I wasn’t able to get them to come to me and get off the road, and I saw several dogs hit by cars while trying to escape the fireworks over the years. The rest of them — who knows where they ended up? Some of them were dragging chains behind them; all of them were wild-eyed and in mortal fear.
One year, there were two horses running down the road trying to escape the fireworks along with the dogs, and one of the horses was hit by a truck. (The person in the truck was injured, too, so in that case the fireworks were dangerous to humans also.)
With the Fourth of July and its loud fireworks displays almost here, please remember to keep your pets safe. Never take your pet to a fireworks display, and even if they’re usually kept outdoors or allowed outdoors, make sure they’re inside before the fireworks begin. Once the booming starts, it will be very difficult to get them inside — the urge is to run.
Since many municipalities (and individuals) shoot off fireworks on days before and after the actual July 4 holiday, it’s a good idea to keep pets safely inside on more than just the Fourth. Check your local municipalities to see when their fireworks displays take place.
To help ensure the safety of your companion animals during fireworks displays, try the following suggestions:
- Keep cats and dogs indoors during fireworks displays, and if possible, stay with them.
- Provide a safe place inside for your pets to retreat. When scared of sounds they can’t orient, dogs (and some cats) often prefer small enclosed areas. If your dog is comfortable in a crate, or if your cat likes to sleep in the carrier with the door open, those are good options.
- Leave your animals at home during the celebrations. NEVER take them with you to watch fireworks displays!
- Never leave animals tethered or chained outside; they can hang themselves if they leap over a fence while trying to run from the noise.
- Do not leave your pet alone in the car. However, if your pet is most comfortable in the car, some pet parents find that driving around with their pet in the car helps to calm their pet.
- Close your windows and curtains. Use air-conditioning to keep it cool inside.
- Turn on a radio that’s tuned to a classical-music station, or turn on the TV to help drown out the sound of the fireworks.
- Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure that you’ve removed any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed.
- Consider purchasing a Thundershirt to keep your dog or cat relaxed throughout the fireworks.
- LICKS offers ZEN, a holistic remedy for dogs experiencing anxiety or just feeling out of sorts. It comes in single-serving packets of liquid vitamins containing antioxidants and ingredients such as chamomile root, tryptophan, theanine and ashwagandha root. For details, visit www.LICKSforDogs.com.
- Play specially formulated CDs such as those from Through a Dog’s Ear (they have them for cats, too); or the Music My Pet Classic Cuts CD.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day. Exercise your dog early in the day before parties begin, and make sure that any off-leash time is securely fenced and any walks include a good leash —- people sometimes set off fireworks before dark.
- Use natural or herbal supplements that are known to be calming for pets.
- Give your dog something fun to do, such as a frozen Kong filled with his favorite treats.
- If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises, consult with your veterinarian before July 4 for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety he or she will experience during fireworks displays.
- If your pet seeks comfort in a bath tub, under a bed or other small space,let them. Do not try to lure them out. If the space is safe and it makes them feel more secure, let them be.
- Talk to your dog in a light, cheerful tone that sends a comforting message that the noise is no big deal. Don’t try too hard to reassure your dog during a fearful event because it can sometimes exacerbate the problem by reinforcing your dog’s fearful response.
- Some cats are very sensitive to people’s moods and may be influenced by the way you react to the noise. It’s best to act happy and calm to help reassure your cat that all is well.
- Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn’t leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chains, risking injury or death.
- Take a current photo of your animal companions and make sure they’re wearing a collar or a harness with an up-to-date identification tag and/or has a microchip, just in case he or she escapes and becomes lost. Not sure about microchips? Learn more.
Sources: PETA.org, Pet360.com, Care2.com, TripswithPets.com, www.PetPlace.com, Petfinder.com,
www.royalcanin.us, www.humanesociety.org, www.ASPCA.org, www.guardiansofrescue.org,
www.bestfriends.org and about.com