July 5, 2013, will most likely be the busiest day of the year for our local animal shelter. While some pet owners are out enjoying the fireworks, their dogs are busy chewing their way through fences, breaking out of the house through a window, and running, running, running, trying desperately to escape the very loud, very scary explosions.
Our first Fourth of July spent in Washington was amazing and shocking. We stood in our front yard and watched massive fireworks fill the sky in every direction around us. I’m originally from California (don’t hold that against me), where you have to go to a fireworks show to see anything like what people can let off in their own yard here.
I was nervous for my animals because they’d never heard noises like that before. I kept them inside the house in a dark room and gave them a lot of attention and praise. My dogs would occasionally bark, and my cats stayed hidden, but otherwise they did alright.
You may not know how your pet is going to react to the noise and flash of fireworks….you just may get home and find your couch chewed up to pieces, or an animal missing. Cats will most likely find a bed to hide under, but dogs typically chew, dig, and bark when they’re nervous. A very frightened dog can do an awful lot of damage trying to find a way to escape. Putting your dog in a crate may not be enough to keep them safe, as they may spend the whole night trying to chew their way out, injuring their mouths and paws in the process.
Staying home with your pets so you’re there to comfort them would be ideal, but if that’s not possible there are things you can try to help keep your pet calm during the Fourth. Bach Rescue Remedy for Pets is a homeopathic calming agent that can be given to dogs and cats. Other natural calming agents for pets include: Tranquility Blend by Animals Apawthecary, and Quite Moments Calming Aid for dogs. These products can be purchased at a pet store.
An interesting product you may want to try is the ThunderShirt. It’s a fitted “shirt” that you put on your dog or cat, that supposedly helps to keep them calm in stressful situations. According to the website: “ThunderShirt uses gentle hugging to calm your dog or cat. With its patented design, ThunderShirt’s gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs and cats if they are anxious, fearful or overexcited. Based on surveys completed by over two thousand customers, over 80% of dogs and cats show significant improvement in symptoms when using ThunderShirt.” – www.thundershirt.com. This product can also be found in local pet stores. If you’re uncertain about how your pet will respond to a night of fireworks, I wouldn’t recommend leaving them alone with any kind of clothing on. They may find a way to get the shirt off and chew it up, or get it stuck around their neck. If you’d like to try the shirt, do so while you’re home so you can monitor your pet.
A highly excitable animal may need a stronger medication than what you can find at a pet store. Speak to your veterinarian about prescription options that may work to keep your dog or cat calm during the fireworks.
If you do stay home on the Fourth, give your furry friends a comfy location to hang out during the night. A cool, dark room is a good place. Close the curtains and blinds, and give your dog some toys, and your cat something to hide in, like a laundry basket turned on it’s side with a blanket draped over the opening. Check on your animals regularly and offer them lots of petting and praise. A Kong full of something yummy may work as a great distractor for your dog.
Remember: our animals don’t understand that the Fourth of July is supposed to be a happy, celebratory time. Please don’t punish your pets if the noise is overwhelming for them. Help them to cope with the situation the best you can, and may everyone have a safe, and fun Fourth of July.