The 4th of July can be a real blast. Friends, food, fireworks: It’s the trifecta of celebrations. You know who is not a huge fan of all of this? Your pets. The loud noises can range from annoying to utterly terrifying, so make plans to keep your pets safe, comfortable and calm this summer.
My wonderful, sweet, terrified-of-almost-everything dog Murphy is a prime example. Whether the issue is too many different people in the house, thunderstorms or slamming doors, I will find him hiding in my closet to escape it, shaking. It’s heartbreaking. He used to scale a 6-foot brick wall to escape our backyard when the high school behind us had sporting events.
According to the American Humane Society, July 5 is the busiest day of the year at shelters across the country, because so many animals flee yards when frightened by neighborhood firework displays.
So, extra precautions are in order during times like the 4th of July. And, unfortunately, the lighting of fireworks and firecrackers often begins long before Independence Day and continues long after the holiday is over. Don’t get me started on those people.
Dr. Steven Merritt of the Siouxland Animal Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, spoke with me about the issues pet owners should be aware of and pet safety tips. The biggest issue for pet owners to be concerned about during holidays like the 4th of July, he said, are the noise phobias that so many animals exhibit:
“Symptoms can include shaking, hiding and a frantic need to escape. They may destroy furniture if inside … they [will] jump over, but also through, fences. We also have animals brought into the hospital because they have jumped through windows and have injured themselves. The animals that do escape then also face the danger of being lost and even hit by cars.”
Pet owners should not discount the fear their pets may experience. “Not only are pets at risk for physical harm; they can also experience mental distress,” Dr. Merritt stressed. “They may demonstrate their fear through heavy panting, pacing frantically, refusing to eat or drink, and an unwillingness to go outside to relieve themselves.”
It isn’t just cats and dogs pet owners need to worry about. “Truly, any animal can be affected by the noise and experience anxiety,” he pointed out. “From birds to reptiles, they can all have a predisposition to be negatively affected by loud, scary noises.”
Many pet owners believe that simply locking a pet up in a bedroom is sufficient, but it’s often not enough to keep pets safe. Said Dr. Merritt:
“Yes, the animal definitely needs to remain indoors. But simply being indoors may not be enough. They should be kept in an interior room as far away from the noise as possible, preferably [in] a room that does not have a window. Some animals’ fears are so strong that, even with these precautions, pet owners should consider talking with their personal veterinarian about medication to keep the animal calm, because they can still harm themselves if frightened enough.”
Consider turning on ambient noise — think fans, music and TV — to help drown out the sounds of fireworks. Some music stations even have music especially for dogs.
Dr. Merritt advises you not to let your pet’s bravado make you complacent:
“Pet owners need to also understand there are risks with keeping your pet outside near the celebration. Even if they are not exhibiting fear of the noise and activities, dogs in particular are likely to attempt to chase the noise, either for fun or to make the noise stop. This exposes them to the possibility of eating something that could be toxic or even getting burned. It is truly best to find the safest environment inside the home and away from the celebrations.”
Finally, make sure your pets have properly fitting collars with ID tags and are microchipped, in the event they do escape.
These pet safety tips are great advice for all pet owners to keep in mind not only during celebrations such as the 4th of July, but also during thunderstorms or proximity to other loud, populated situations like a high school, as with us. We love our fur babies, so keeping them safe — both physically and emotionally — is a priority. Knowing you’ve made your pet as happy and safe as possible, you can go and enjoy your celebration without worry.