While humans are uttering “oohs” and “ahhs,” enjoying the 4th of July fireworks, many terrified dogs are digging under or jumping over fences, breaking tethers or even shattering windows in an attempt to escape from the frightening noises. Cats who are allowed outside are also vulnerable to being scared away from their homes.
Frightened run-away pets wind up in shelters across the country, which fill beyond capacity in the days following the unofficial kickoff to summer, making it their busiest time of year. Some of these lost animals will eventually be reunited with their families, but others will sadly be injured or killed in traffic or remain unclaimed in shelters.
Although it’s unclear why fireworks are more terrifying for some pets than others, Best Friends Animal Society veterinarian Dr. Michael Dix points out that loud noise that seem to come out of nowhere, can induce a fear response in many dogs.
“If a dog cannot settle down, constantly pants, barks or seems to be trying to hide or escape, they may have a fear of fireworks,” Dix said. “If you feel your animal has a severe phobia or a negative reaction to fireworks, you should contact your veterinarian about options including anti-anxiety medications.”
“Noise phobias in cats tend to be less noticeable,” Dix continued. “They can manifest as hiding in small areas, which is also behavior for a cat. Thus, owners are less aware of the stress the cat may feel.”
Best Friends Animal Society recommends taking a few simple precautions before the first fireworks are lit to help keep pets home, safe and comfortable this holiday weekend:
Bring all pets indoors whenever neighborhood fireworks displays are likely. Secure dogs in a quiet room, close curtains and play music or turn on the television to drown out the frightening sounds.
Keep pets away from lit fireworks at all times, including in your own yard or street, as some will chase after the bright moving objects and are at risk to be burned or blinded in the process.
Ensure that pets are microchipped and wear current identification tags, just in case they accidentally get loose.
If your pet does go missing over the holiday, check immediately and often with local animal shelters. Go to the shelter in person to identify your pet, rather than calling or emailing, as staff may not be able to respond in a timely enough fashion. Kennel space is often limited around the 4th of July because so many pets panic, and some shelters are unable to hold animals extra time due to overcrowding.