We all love fireworks! We love to watch them, we love to hear them, and we love to ignite them. Our animal companions do not feel the same way. Animals have very sensitive hearing and can hear higher frequencies than we do, so fireworks sound differently and much, much louder. We need to be able to recognize the signs of fear and anxiety in our animal companions so that we can help calm them and make the situation more enjoyable.
Signs of Fear and Anxiety in Dogs
- Increased heart rate
- Smacking of the lips
- Increased hesitancy
Signs of Fear and Anxiety in Cats
- Increased heart rate
- Smacking of the lips
- Removing themselves from the situation
Fireworks present many dangers to animals. Animals can suffer severe burns, broken eardrums, severe diarrhea and/or vomiting, blindness, shock, and even death. They often attempt to escape and hide, so there are many animals who flee the backyard or home and become lost or injured by automobiles. Many animals are hurt intentionally and can not be helped until injured. Others are hurt unintentionally by family members who love them, but don't understand the animal's perception of what is happening. When watching or using fireworks, many people jump around and/or yell excitedly. The animals perception is that of chaos and misunderstanding. There are many things pet owners can do to help minimize and manage your pet's fear regarding fireworks.
Never force an animal to confront its fears. Animals do not understand the chaos that we create, they just perceive an excitable situation.
Be with your animal to comfort it. If you must leave the animal alone, place them in a quiet room with soft music playing, or perhaps a calming television station. Periodically check on your pet to make sure that they feel safe and are not showing any signs of fear or anxiety.
Lead by example. If you act calm during the fireworks display, then your pet will feel calm.
Do not respond to any anxious behavior displayed by your pet. If they begin to act anxious, act normally and lead them to the "safe place" that you have created for them.
Distract them with games or food rewards. If you ignore the fireworks and chaos, they may too.
Don't reassure them. Many pet owners "talk" to their pets and tell them not to worry or that everything will be okay. These animals don't understand what we are saying, but they do hear the concern in our voices, so they become worried because they feel that we are worried.
Many people request tranquilizers or other medication for their pets to help them "cope" with fireworks displays. Tranquilizers can cause sedation and an inability to respond appropriately, but they can also worsen the situation. Remember, if you modify the pet's behavior, you modify all the behaviors, not just fear or anxiety. A pet that has never bitten before, may strike out. Inappropriate urine or fecal elimination can occur. There are many side effects to tranquilization and this should be the last option to consider.
There are safe alternatives to tranquilization. You may apply a drop of peppermint oil on the paw or pad. This will distract the animal and has a calming effect. There are many pheromone products available which can help calm your pet. Most of these need to be put into use two weeks prior to the event.
Others often "board" their pets in veterinary hospitals or other boarding facilities to give their animal a "safe place" away from the home. However, owners don't understand that the pets are left along in a strange place and still hear the fireworks display. This is not the best way to handle the situation. Pets are more comfortable with the owners and more comfortable at home in their own surroundings. It is important to take the time to desensitize your companion to fireworks displays so that you both may enjoy the celebrations.
Microchip your animal companion!! Attempting to escape or hide is a normal behavior for any fearful animals. Microchipping your animal companion will aid in the identification and return of an escaped lost animal. Make sure that even if your companion is microchipped, that the registration is up to date. Many times we find animals with microchips whose owners have failed to update the registration, and the animal does not get returned to the current owner.
Barbeques and the Fourth of July go hand-in-hand. There are many hazards for your animal companion associated with barbequing as well. Animals smell the food, but don't realize that the grill is extremely hot. Please keep pets in a secure area away from the grill to reduce injuries. It is also essential that you not feed your pets human food. Many meats contain bones which pose a choking hazard, foreign body obstruction pattern, and can also perforate the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. Most food is seasoned, and there are many toxicities associated with certain seasonings, especially garlic and onion. Other signs of distress include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding Fireworks and your pets, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!