Did you know that more pets are lost on July 4th than on any other day of the year?
While fireworks and the related July 4th celebrations are a source of joy for many, for others there is a dark side. Pets, wild animals and even people can suffer during this time. The loud sounds are a source of stress and fear for animals that don’t understand what’s going on and for people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to their noise sensitivity. Rather than enjoying the festivities, they can suffer dangerous consequences.
In a 2005 press release the Indiana Proactive Animal Welfare, Inc. (PAW) stated that animal shelters the day after Fourth of July are “inundated with pets that panicked at the noise of firecrackers and fled into the night, winding up lost, injured or killed.”
Unlike people, pets don’t associate the noise, flashes and burning smell of firecrackers with celebrations. Many are terrified and often panic at the loud whizzes and bangs they hear.
We conducted a recent poll from our myDoggySocial community and many dog lovers reported that their dogs were indeed scared or exhibited signs of being anxious when they heard the loud sounds of firecrackers. In fact, animal control officials and shelters report July 5th as being the busiest day for U.S. animal shelters. Some shelters hold more adoption events in the months leading up to Independence Day in an effort to free up room to accommodate the anticipated sudden influx of lost pets. The sounds cause the animals to become frantic and to bolt – they just want to get away from the sounds and so they run. Some dogs literally freak out: trying to hide, running around, digging a hole in a corner, panting, doing anything to deal with the fear. Over the years, the festivities and use of fireworks have spread out from just one day on the 4th to occurring over multiple days, and in some places, even weeks, in advance.
“The safest place for your pet on the fourth of July is at home,” says Matt Williams, a spokesman for the Humane Rescue Alliance.
Taking these dogs out to the parks where there are fireworks and a lot of people, in addition to the heat, makes for a pretty miserable experience for dogs who are scared or anxious of the loud sounds. Many dog owners mistakenly believe that taking their dogs along with them, rather than leaving them at home, allows them to comfort the dogs if they feel scared. Some dog owners go as far as visiting their vet in order to have the dogs tranquilized, to spare the dog the discomfort and fear. “A safe margin is usually a half milligram per pound,” said Dr. Eric Braun, owner of Skyline Veterinary Hospital in California. Braun said it’s not for everyone, but some dog owners are asking for a prescription for the holiday.
“Acepromazine–they’re calling for their favorite sedative for their dog. It takes effect in about an hour and a half and lasts about six-to-eight hours,” said Braun. “It’s a mild sedative, and there’s little danger in it, if dosed properly.”
Other dogs deal with it in stride or are completely unaffected by the loud sounds. Some lucky owners have dogs that grow out of or are trained out of their fear. For others, the anxiety can actually get worse over time as their dog ages.
Many places have now opted to use “silent fireworks” instead of regular firecrackers, in an attempt to keep wildlife, pets and people safe. Silent fireworks are not entirely silent, but typically don’t include the large aerial explosions found in traditional shows. Others, like the city of Aspen, Colorado, swapped out their usual July 4th fireworks in favor of a synchronized drone show. In Canada, the town of Banff, a popular tourist location in Alberta, launched a pyrotechnic display to replace their typical Canada Day fireworks celebrations.
“We wanted to minimize the impact on wildlife in the townsite and obviously the surrounding national park, as loud fireworks can be stressful to them,” stated Corrie DiManno, the deputy mayor.
In Britain, venues near residents, wildlife or livestock only allow for quiet fireworks.
Here are some tips to help keep your dogs safe:
- Be sure to have your dog’s ID tag on its collar, containing your contact information
- Have your dog microchipped
- Keep your dog indoors when fireworks are expected to be heard
- Get your dog inside well before it gets dark
- Don’t lock your dog up in isolation
- Take a current photo of your pet, just in case
- If your dog runs away, check the dog shelters, knock on neighbors doors, or check Craigslist to try to find them as soon as possible – don’t wait for a few days expecting them to return
- If you’re hosting guests in your home, ask them to keep an eye on your dogs to make sure they don’t escape. Place notes on exit doors and gates to help everyone stay vigilant
- Consider putting your dog in his crate during fireworks, so they feel secure
Here are some tips to help your dogs deal with the loud sounds produced by firecrackers:
- Get your dog a comfort vest. These vests provide relief and a calming effect on your dog, reducing anxiety from firecracker sounds and even thunderstorms.
- Try a dog calming treat, with ingredients that are proven to naturally soothe your dogs nerves (vegan and homeopathic options also available).
- Keep the T.V. or radio on during the periods of time that you expect the sound of fireworks, this can help drown out the more unpleasant firecracker sounds.
- Try putting a weighted blanket on your dog to soothe them
- Give them a high value treat, like cheese or chicken chunks, every time a firecracker goes off, so they develop a positive association to the sound
- Play a game with them every time a firecracker goes off, so they develop a positive association to the sound
- Consider behavioral therapy from a profession to desensitize your pet and reduce risks. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist
These products have received great reviews on Amazon for pet lovers trying to soothe their dogs.