28 June 2017
The Dilemma for Pets and Fireworks
The Dirt on Firework Season
Summer is in full swing, and pet parents are enjoying the weather, the parks, and the summer holidays with their fur-babies all around. It’s a wonderful time a year that comes with a variety of cautions for us: keeping pets cool, ensuring pets are hydrated, watching out for pets left in hot cars, moderating pet interactions with the children that are out of school - the list goes on. Many summer celebrations bring with them the delight of fireworks - much to the dismay of our furry friends.
Fireworks are loud. Really loud. They are among the loudest sounds that we allow ourselves to hear for fun, next to race cars and concert music. Dogs and cats have far more sensitive hearing than we do, so what is loud for us is far more booming for them. The overwhelming sounds of fireworks terrify dogs and cats, and the results can be disastrous. Pets may do unthinkable things to try to escape the scary sights and sounds of the display, even if the pets are indoors. Some may break their leads, jump through closed windows, climb fences, or shove themselves into small spaces. Besides the injuries that can come from these behaviors, lasting trauma and the risk of getting lost or being hit by a car are very real possibilities. Do your pets a favor and plan ahead!
Do not bring your pet bestie with you to firework displays. He or she may be the most well-behaved, well-adjusted animal - don’t do it.
Your town or your neighbors may shoot off fireworks that will be seen and heard from your home, so be prepared ahead of summer holidays so that your pet has the best comfort possible. In municipalities where only professional displays are allowed, find out what dates and times those will be. In most areas, you can expect your various neighbors to set off fireworks at random the week before, the weekend of, and the week after summer holidays (bless their celebratory hearts, ugh).
If you can, desensitize your pets to loud noises and booms by playing recordings of firework sounds on your phone, TV, or computer periodically. Keep it at lower volumes and go about your normal business to indicate that the sounds are of no concern. Raise the volume in subsequent sittings, but don’t deafen yourself or your pet.
Do not leave your pets outside around summer holidays; being kenneled, tethered, or loose will not make a difference. The outcome is traumatization or more traumatization. Bring them inside.
As always, be sure your pets have an appropriately fitting collar with proper tags identifying their name, home address, and your phone number. Microchipping pets and keeping the chip registration up to date aids in returning lost pets to their homes. Now is a great time to check the fitting of your pets’ collars and be sure their microchip registrations have current information.
The house is a nice safe place for the whole family, but it could use some modifications to create a comforting environment for pets during fireworks displays. Before nightfall, set up your home to have low lighting in each room accessible to your pets; not too bright, but bright enough to dissipate the light flashes of fireworks; not too dim, having a clear view of the area offers comfort and confidence to the animals. Close blinds and drapes to reduce visual stimuli. Use TVs or radios to drown out the noises from outside; fans and airconditioners tend to offer useful white noise as well.
Offer your pet a safe space where he or she can hide out during the loud noises. Kennels and pet houses work well for this purpose. You can place blankets over it to dampen the noises, and put pillows and blankets inside for comfort. Be aware that if panicked, your pet may destroy things that are accessible, so don’t put irreplaceable items in the kennel. Have the safe space set up well in advance so that your pet’s contingency plan includes this space for hiding.
Feed, water, and walk your pets about an hour before sundown. This way their needs are met prior to any anxiety - while panicking, animals will refuse food and water and may not be able to control their bowels. Not to mention that you won’t want to try to get them to go out to potty during the fireworks.
If your pet does panic, do not punish the behavior - they have no control over it. But also don’t reinforce it by petting and/or reassuring him or her. Handle the reaction by ignoring the behavior and trying to distract them - redirect his or her attention by playing or practicing their normal tricks. As tempting as it may be to make the night’s focus your pet’s welfare, avoid that and go about your normal routines making dinner, watching shows, doing house chores - your pets take their emotional cues from you, so being confident will reassure them while being anticipant will make them nervous.
Know the signs of stress for your pets. Signs of stress in cats include running away and hiding, inappropriate urination or defecation, cowering, trembling/shaking, panting, vocalizing and refusing to eat. Signs of stress in dogs include pacing, panting, inappropriate barking, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling/shaking and refusal to eat.
Before letting your pets outside, check the yard for spent fireworks. Not only are they choking hazards, but the materials they are made of are toxic if ingested.
Keep this posted in your home: Pet Poison Helpline 1-800-213-6680
If your pet gets lost, contact local shelters and veterinarians immediately to give them your pet’s description. Post up Lost ads around the neighborhood as well as on sites like Craigslist and local pet lost and found Facebook groups. Your ads should describe the pet well but leave out key details that a person will only know if they have your pet up close - that way you can avoid scams in which a person contacts you pretending to have your pet. Never go alone to meet with someone who claims to have your pet.
Don’t rule out the possibility that your pet’s ongoing nervousness or anxiety may need to be medicated. If your pet displays anxious behavior frequently, consult with your veterinarian as well as a behaviorist.
Although it is a last-resort, pets that react uncontrollably to traumas like fireworks or storms despite all your efforts may require sedation. Ask your vet for recommendations and appropriate dosage for your pet.