This is such is a festive time of year for those of us in Canada, the UK, and the US. Queen Elizabeth II just celebrated her birthday in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧. Coming up next is Canada Day 🇨🇦 on July 1st and America's Independence Day 🇺🇸 on July 4th. Of course, along with these celebrations come fireworks. However, fireworks displays can be stressful and anything but enjoyable for many hoomans and their pets. A pet’s reaction can range from mild (wanting to snuggle or hide until the noise stops) to severe (breaking through barriers to run away or being really destructive). It's estimated that 45 percent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. It doesn't have to be that way though, so don't ignore the problem. There are lots of simple things you can do to help your pet deal with fireworks. By preparing in advance before fireworks start your pet will be better able to cope with the noises.
Before the celebrations
- Make sure your pets – cats and dogs alike – have identification tags with up-to-date information. If you have horses, you might consider marking a safety (breakaway) halter with your contact information and leaving it on your horse during this stressful time.
- If your pets aren’t already microchipped, talk with your veterinarian about microchipping. This simple procedure can significantly improve your chances of getting your pets back if they become lost.
If your pets are microchipped, make sure your contact information in the microchip registry is up-to-date.
- Take a current photo of all of your pets – just in case.
- Just as for thunderstorm phobia, recognize that stepping in early to calm your pets is the way to go. If every year brings an increased level of anxiety, we recommend taking steps to reduce exposure beforehand. If not, every year will bring out new heightened versions of the worst in your pets. One solution to consider is behavioral therapy to desensitize your pet and reduce the risk of problems. Another solution is sedation medication as some pets can seriously hurt themselves or others. They don’t deserve to suffer. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist for help.
- Make sure their environment is safe and secure. If your neighbors set off fireworks at an unexpected time, is your yard secure enough to keep your pet contained? Are pasture fences secure enough to keep horses or other livestock confined? Evaluate your options and choose the safest area for your animals, and make improvements if needed to make the space more secure.
- If you're traveling out of town for the celebration, consider leaving your pets at home with a pet sitter or boarding them in a kennel. If you need to bring them with you, be sure you know how to keep them safe.
- Walk your dogs or ride your horses before the fireworks start to tire them out.
During the celebrations
- Keep your pets inside if you or your neighbors are setting off fireworks.
- Keep sparklers, glow sticks, fireworks, charcoal, and kabob skewers away from curious pets.
- If you’re hosting guests, ask them to help keep an eye on your pets to make sure they don’t escape. Placing notes on exit doors and gates can help both you and your guests remain vigilant.
- Leave your pets at home when you go to parties, fireworks displays, parades, and other gatherings. Loud fireworks, unfamiliar places, and crowds can all be very frightening to pets, and there's a considerable risk of pets becoming spooked and running away. Additionally, even if your dog doesn’t bark or whimper at the noise, it doesn’t mean they are happy. Excessive panting and yawning can indicate that your dog is stressed.
- Avoid leaving your pet alone during such potentially upsetting events. If you do have to leave the house, don’t get angry with your pet if you find they have been destructive or had an accident after being left on its own. Shouting at a frightened pet will only make them more stressed.
- Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets, and birds all need to be treated with special care when fireworks are being let off. These animals are more easily frightened than other species.
- Hutches/cages and enclosures should, if possible, be brought into a quiet room indoors, or into a garage or shed.
- If you cannot bring your pet’s hutch inside, you should turn its enclosure around so that it faces a wall or fence instead of the open garden.
- Cover any aviaries or hutches with thick blankets or a duvet to block out the sight of the fireworks and deaden the sound of the bangs, but make sure there is enough ventilation.
- Block off dog doors and cat flaps.
- Consider putting your pets in a safe, escape-proof room or crate during parties and fireworks. You can also create a quiet space where your pet can feel in control or create some hiding places around your home.
- Hang out with your pets in the quiet area.
- Give your pet extra bedding to burrow into, so it feels safe.
- Put on some music, tv, and/or a fan to mask the firework sounds and turn on the air conditioning (if you have it).
- Let your pet pace around, whine, meow, and hide in a corner if they want to. Do not try to coax them out – it's just trying to find safety and should not be disturbed.
- Stay calm, act normally, and give lots of praise for calm behavior. It’s OK to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but if they prefer to hide under your bed, then let them do this instead.
- Give them a durable chew item. For some pets, chewing on something provides an outlet for their anxiety.
- Cover your pet with a blanket to give comfort and help him feel safer.
There are also several products that can help pets remain calm:
ThunderShirt: This product fits like a snug T-shirt and uses gentle pressure to calm the pet. You’ll want to teach your dog or cat to wear the ThunderShirt during a non-stressful time so that you aren’t adding something new to an already overwhelmed pet.
Pheromones: Another way to help lower a pet’s anxiety is with the use of pheromones. These products come in various forms — as a wipe, spray, collar, or diffuser — so that you can choose the best option based on the situation. Again, give the pet a chance to experience the pheromones before the actual stress-producing event occurs.
Calming music: You can purchase calming CDs and collections that use soothing music and sound to help ease pets’ anxiety.
After the celebrations
- Check your yard for fireworks debris before allowing pets outside to play or relax. Even if you didn't set off fireworks yourself, trash could make its way into your yard, where curious animals may pick it up to play with or eat.
- Check your pastures and remove debris to protect horses and livestock.
If you hosted guests, check both your yard and home for food scraps or other debris that might be dangerous to pets, such as food skewers.