Updated: Jul 17, 2020
July 4th can be one of the most challenging days of the year for pets and their owners. Many dogs and cats express their fear of fireworks by trembling, trying to hide, or attempting to run away. Given that many cities have reported record numbers of fireworks, this Independence Day and summer are shaping up to be especially tough for pets with sound phobias.
Here’s what you need to know.
Dr. Jones Explains:
Animals instinctively find loud noises threatening. In fact, around half of dogs have some sound sensitivity, and a large proportion of those animals have fear responses strong enough for it to be considered a full-blown phobia. Their hearing is far better than ours, so what may seem far away or not that loud to humans can be a perfectly reasonable cause for panic in pets. Sadly, I've seen dogs who have given themselves lacerations, corneal ulcers, and fractured their nails trying to break out of an enclosure during fireworks.
As you might guess, July 4th and 5th are extremely busy at animal shelters and veterinary ERs. If you have a sick or injured pet, you might be in for a long wait.
Now for the good news: There is plenty you can do to help your pet relax along with the rest of the neighborhood. Even better — what you need may already be in your house.
How to Keep Dogs and Cats Calm During Fireworks
Tip #1: Make a safe space for your pets.
They might feel safest in their unlocked crate in the living room, but until the first ka-BOOM, you won’t know for sure. Give them the option of a closet, and make sure you leave the door cracked — closets can get way too hot, and pets can easily overheat. You can also close the blinds to prevent bright lights from creating more stressful stimuli.
Tip #2: Don’t lock them in a crate.
Shelter is good, but putting them somewhere where they can’t move freely might make them feel trapped. This can lead to dogs hurting themselves out of sheer panic. Let them choose where they want to hang out, and give them the option to re-join their humans if they change their mind.
Tip #3 TREATS.
Say it out loud: Treats! Frozen kongs and puzzle feeders can do the trick, but use whatever treat you know your pet loves. This is called counterconditioning, and one study found that it was an effective treatment for 70% of dogs with noise phobias