Fireworks aren’t much fun for (most) dogs.
And cats, too!
It’s true. Even under the best of circumstances, fireworks can be pretty traumatic for your pets, especially your dog.
In fact, it’s the number one day for shelters receiving “lost dogs” found during and after fireworks events. And why not? Loud noises, crowds, and being out in the dark are a potent recipe for fear and anxiety for even the most well-adjusted pooch.
Here’s some great ways you can make fireworks season better for your pups (and kitties, too!)
1. Prepare for the likelihood of flight:
Even if you leave your pup safely at home, they may get loose and run off in fear – so be prepared!
Prevent them running off with a good, well-fitting collar or harness, and invest in a strong, solid leash. This is not the time to use a retractable (flexi) leash! Even if your yard is fenced (physicial or electronic) do NOT let them out without leashing them while still inside!
Prepare for the worst: Take a recent photo of your pet in case you need to identify them. Make sure they have identification on their collar, and have your microchip info handy, if applicable.
2. Leave your pet HOME. And inside.
Very few dogs are desensitized to fireworks enough to enjoy an outing to these events. They will feel safer in a familiar place, and the walls help to reduce the sound. Keep your cat inside, even if they’re an outdoor cat. They are less likely to escape or get hurt, and everyone will have more fun, including you!
A note about crating your pet during fireworks: While your pet may seek out its crate as a safe space, it is not necessarily recommended to actually shut an anxious dog in their crate. Studies show that when their flight response is triggered, feeling trapped may actually significantly increase their anxiety levels.
3. Distract them.
Turn the radio up, loud. This will help reduce the impact of sudden, loud sounds. Give them something to play with or lick. Licking helps reduce anxiety! A Kong filled with peanut butter or wet dog food and frozen makes a great, cooling treat that will keep them busy for hours. If the dog will engage with you, play with favorite toys. If not, leave them alone with a favorite toy and blanket.
4. Let them choose the best coping methods for themselves.
Animals are pretty smart about what they need. As long as you’ve secured them in a safe space, let them tell you what they need to feel better. It may mean hiding under the bed, staying in their crate, or on your lap and as close to you as possible (a bit awkward for a Great Dane, but heck, you do what you’ve gotta do!) Your pet may want a lot of attention, or they may want to be left alone. If you are outside during the fireworks, walking your dog instead of sitting still may help them to expend some energy and relieve their flight response. Your cat may disappear for days – no worries, they’ll come out when they feel safe again.
5. Try a Thundershirt or other natural anxiety reducers.
Thundershirts have been scientifically shown to help reduce anxiety in some pets (PS – we have them on sale from $20-$35 each through the month of July!) There are some great pheromone-based anti-anxiety products for pets – we carry several brands in our stores. And pet products containing CBD oils have also been shown to help some pets deal with anxiety (we also carry many of these products!). And don’t discount the value of touch! Just gently petting your pet and speaking in a soothing voice can have a huge impact on reducing their stress!
If natural products do not work, your vet can prescribe something or may suggest over the counter medications that can effectively relieve stress and anxiety.
6. Be kind and supportive, no matter what your pet does during this stressful time.
Pets respond to fear and anxiety in a lot of ways that may not be “acceptable” behavior under other circumstances. A well housebroken dog or cat may wet or poop in the house or their kennel. They may refuse to go out to go to the bathroom. They may bark incessantly, and continue to bark at everything long after the fireworks are over. They may chew and scratch, or even destroy items in their reach. A fearful pet may growl or nip at beloved family members or strangers, no matter how well-trained they are. A pet that is normally good with kids may be too overloaded to cope with the added stress – this is a good time to keep the kids away for everyone’s welfare. Your pet may not eat or drink for a bit. They may even hide for days, especially cats!
Do not reprimand or yell at them for “bad” behavior; this will only make them more anxious. Remove them from the situation, if possible. Give them love and support while they are feeling frightened. Offer them water or a pup-sicle to lick to keep fluids up. And if the anxiety persists or is particularly severe, definitely seek treatment from your vet! Left untreated, severe anxiety can create potentially dangerous medical conditions.
Good luck, and let’s make the holiday as enjoyable as possible for every member of our families!