Every year on July 5, lost animals wind up at shelters all across the nation. The reason: Fourth of July fireworks. Nancy Peterson from the Humane Society of the United States says, “The crowds and hubbub of Independence Day festivities and the thunderous sounds of the fireworks may terrify pets. Cats and dogs often become alarmed and disoriented during July 4 celebrations and may bolt from their yards or homes, resulting in a lost pet and a heartbroken owner.”
Most pet owners can relate to this. I know of a dog owner who tried to safely secure her dog in a locked room during a fireworks event, thinking it would help her dog remain calm. She came home to find her dog had chewed through the wooden door trying to escape and had pooped all over the house. Thankfully, the dog didn’t injure herself or escape from the home. Needless to say, that dog owner now stays home with her dog during any fireworks displays.
If your pet is frightened of thunder or other loud noises, veterinarian Janet Crosby recommends trying behavior modification. This involves playing a recording of thunder at very low levels. Dr. Crosby says to use the time to reassure your pet that everything is fine. Gradually increase the volume slowly over time, if your pet is able to handle the sounds without getting stressed. She urges pet owners to start slow and be sure to praise your pet for being calm.
Here are some other precautions pet owners should take during the Fourth of July:
• Resist the urge to take your pet to fireworks displays and never use fireworks around pets. Obviously, severe burns can result if your pet is exposed to lit fireworks. In addition, unused fireworks can be dangerous to pets. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic, and other heavy metals. Also be aware that certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases.
• Do not leave your pet in the car during fireworks. Aside from experiencing heat stroke in a hot car, pets can also injure themselves trying to escape from a car if they are frightened of fireworks.
• Keep your pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. It’s best to keep your pets in a locked room that’s pet-proofed. Scared animals can become destructive and may be harmed if they ingest something they shouldn’t.
• Experts recommend leaving a television or radio on to keep your pet company. There’s a music series called “through a dog’s ear,” which claims to provide clinically tested solutions to anxiety issues for dogs. For more information, visit throughadogsear.com.
• If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises like thunder, consult with your veterinarian before July 4 for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety. You may want to consider having someone remain home with your pet.
• Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. Pets who normally won’t leave the yard, may escape at the sound of fireworks. It’s best to keep all pets inside.
• Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned. Since shelters receive numerous stray animals after a fireworks event, make sure your pet doesn’t become a statistic. Ensure that proper identification is on all your pets.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger discourages Californians from buying fireworks. While his main concern is public safety and fire hazards, I still applaud his efforts. While I am all in favor of celebrating our country’s independence, I would like to see a shift from fireworks to alternative but equally impressive displays. Laser light shows are just as remarkable as fireworks, but cause less pollution, are less of a fire danger, don’t displace wild animals, and are much more humane.