The Fourth of July is upon us, and with it comes barbecues, family gatherings (provided everyone stands 6 feet apart), and of course firework displays. This year things may look a little different as everyone learns to adapt to celebrating our countries birthday in the face of Covid-19, however, as evidenced by the many fireworks already shot off in my neighborhood, fireworks are still on the agenda for many people. In my household, the 4th of July brings about feelings of anxiety for myself and my pets. My older boxer Madeline is afraid of loud noises, thunderstorms and especially fireworks. In addition, I have 2 outdoor cats who don't appreciate having their lovely country evening disturbed by the sounds of perceived warfare over their heads. Does the 4th of July have to be a terrifying experience for our pets....no. Below I list several tips and tricks to help our pets enjoy the fourth along with us.
Fireworks inherently equate to a loud 'boom' - we can expect it because we know what is happening, however our furry friends feel as if a world war is occuring around them. Playing calming music throughout your home, or the room where your pet will be staying, will help drown out the sounds of celebrations outside. Classical, reggae and soft rock are often met with favorable responses from our pets. In addition, providing white noise, fans or water fountains to fill the gaps between songs; and/or leaving your TV on and tuned in to a favorite program while you are gone, will provide familiar sounds for your pets during this scary time.
Using pheromone sprays or plug-ins around the home will provide a sense of calm for your pets - these devices mimic the natural soothing chemicals that mother dogs and cats produce during nursing to comfort their offspring. I recommend placing them in common areas and of course wherever your pet will be staying while you are gone. Pheromone sprays/diffusers are also great to use year-round to keep your home a safe and welcoming place for your pets - my favorites include Adaptil and Feliway.
Along with abnormal sounds, fireworks produce large flashes of light which can be stress inducing for our pets. Keeping the blinds and curtains closed in the home will decrease the extreme light produced by these celebrations.
For those pets who are extremely sensitive, keeping them in a small area free from objects they may destroy or injure themselves on is key. Many dogs will chew through door frames, screens or even break through glass windows if they are feeling fearful enough. During my ER shifts, I have seen many pets injure themselves or destroy homes due to fear of firework celebrations - if you are unsure how your pet will respond, it is best to keep them in a safe place whether that be a playpen or crate so that they will not injure themselves or worse, get loose from your home.
For some pets, the feeling of a tight warm hug provides enough comfort to decrease stress - compression garments such as Thundershirts provide a great alternative to the physical hug from their human counterparts
If your pet finds comfort being around their furry brothers and sisters, try to keep them all together so that they may keep each other stress free.
If your home is the celebration location, try to consider whether the presence of strangers and new people will produce feelings of anxiety or stress in your pets. If this is the case, it may be best that your pet remain in a safe spot in the home and not be a part of the gathering.
If your pet is hiding
I don't recommend forcing your pet to come out from their hiding place - fearful pets can lash out at even their most loved humans when they are feeling confronted or confined
If you need to move them, attempt to gently coax them out with treats. If you can leave them, allow them to re-emerge once they feel it is safe
Outside the home
Fireworks and pets DO NOT MIX! Please do not take your pets to firework celebrations - the 4th of July remains the day that the most pets go missing. It is better for Fido to stay home!
Ensure the outdoor cats have access to shelter - in our household we leave the garage area accessible during this time of year so that our outdoor kitties can seek refuge away from any noises (Fireworks or otherwise) and can feel safe.
Take your dog outside to potty well in advance of firework celebrations - my sweet boxer will not go outside after 8 pm on any night there are fireworks - and at 80 lbs I cannot force her. So think ahead and plan for your pets.
Talk to your vet! For those pets who need some pharmaceutical intervention, there are lots of newer options. I personally shy away from some of the older medications such as Xanax or Acepromazine for these instances - I find that if these medications are not dosed at exactly the right time (generally several hours in advance) they do not provide the needed anxiolytic effects. There are lots of nutraceuticals available on the market that have significant calming effects for our pets without the side effects of sedatives - examples of these include Zylkene and Solliquin. Your vet should be consulted however since each of these products work differently and may not be appropriate for every case. For pets with significant fear and anxiety, such as my sweet dog, there are many medications that are available which can be given at the onset of fireworks or even after the pet has started to show some anxiety, which can reduce this and make the evening less stressful for them.
It's important to remember that summertime brings with it lots of opportunities for celebration and fun with friends and family. OUr pets are part of our family and we need to consider them as well. Making the 4th of July fear free for them as well should be a top priority. For more information check out fearfreehomes.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on instagram @thefearlessvet.
Adaptil : https://www.adaptil.com/
Feliway : https://www.feliway.com/us
Solliquin : https://www.solliquin.com/