The 4th of July can mean fun, food, friends and fireworks for people, but for our pets, it can feel more like a scary alien invasion! In fact, July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters, which fill up quickly with animals who panic and flee the bright lights and loud noises of holiday celebrations. Make July 4th a pet-riotic holiday by following these steps for a stress free day for both you and your fur-kids.
Not all dogs are susceptible to loud noises, and cats don’t get disturbed as much by them, typically opting to hide instead of running away when scared. However, some breeds, like border collies, Australian shepherds and smaller dogs like chihuahuas, can be very sensitive.
It’s not too hard to tell your dog is scared or having anxiety if you know what to look for. Shivering, shaking, panting, salivating, yawning and trying to hide are some of those indications. Frightened dogs may also lick their lips repeatedly or get stiff. “In addition to displaying fearful behavior, some dogs also cling to their owners, destroy property, soil the house or injure themselves when they hear a noise that upsets them,’’ said Pia Silvani, director of behavior rehabilitation at the ASPCA. “Frantic attempts to escape may cause dogs to chew, scratch, dig and even jump out of windows.’’
If they’re cowering in a corner or under a bed, don’t try to pull them out, which may prompt them to bite. Instead, either allow them to come out on their own or encourage them with a treat or toy.
Don’t rely on desensitizing
The notion of getting dogs used to the bright flashes and loud pops of fireworks sounds good but takes a lot of time – think weeks or months, not days – and effort.
- Prepare for the worst-case scenario. July 4th is a great annual reminder to be prepared in case your pet escapes or gets lost. If your pet is not wearing a collar with an ID tag, now is the best time to get one. You’ll also want to double check that your pet is microchipped and that the chip is registered with updated contact information.
- Avoid the crowds. Avoid bringing your pooch to super crowded events, parades, and other gatherings with a lot of commotion or people. A combination of heat, loud noises, packed spaces and scorching blacktop can not only be stressful, but harmful to your pet’s health. Better to leave them at home in a cool spot with lots of water. It’s especially wise to avoid bringing your pets to firework events, as they could panic and try to run.
- Work them out. Be sure to give your pets lots of exercise during the day, so they’ll be a little worn out before the scary noises start at night. A nice long run or play session during the daytime will help with your pet’s overall stress and anxiety levels. Some pets may sleep right through the night time celebrations!
- Head indoors before the fun begins. Don’t wait for the fireworks to be in full swing before taking care of your pet. It’s best to bring him or her indoors or put them in a cozy spot well ahead of the first boom of fireworks. Which brings us to…
- Create a safe space. Pre-pyrotechnics, create a safe, escape-proof space in your home. Lower the blinds, close the windows, provide a bed or crate where they feel comfortable, offer a special chew or toy to distract them and turn on the TV or radio to help mask the noises outside.
- Wrap them up. Confining movement in dogs and cats actually has a calming effect on them, which is why you might want to consider an anti-anxiety wrap or coat. Try this one, available on Amazon. In a pinch, you can even create one from a scarf.
- Give them a chill pill. If you’re really worried about a pet who stresses easily, talk to your vet in advance about anti-anxiety chews, drops or other remedies that can help your pet relax. There are plenty of prescription and homeopathic solutions out there that can help your pet get the extra dose of relaxation that he or she needs.
Independence Day is fun for us, but it’s the worst day imaginable for some cats and dogs. They literally think the world is ending! Do them a favor and make sure they’re well protected and safe so they stay with you for many years to come. Happy Fourth!
Credit: MICHELSON FOUND ANIMALS FOUNDATION