With the Fourth of July almost here, many pet owners are concerned about the effects of fireworks on their dog or cat. Here at Mission Animal & Bird Hospital, we’ve seen pets under stress show symptoms such as shaking and hiding to vomiting, diarrhea, and self-mutilation and other destructive behavior. I treated a St. Bernard who sustained multiple serious lacerations by crashing through a large window.
So if you’re wondering how to keep your dog or cat calm during fireworks, here are our top fireworks pet safety tips.
- First and foremost, don’t get upset about your pet’s behavior! This only confirms to them that there’s something to be afraid of, and will only make your dog or cat even more anxious.
- Don’t fuss over or try to reassure your pet when he or she is scared and acting out. This can be regarded as a reward for the behavior, creating more intense reactions with each future exposure. It might be difficult for you, but try to ignore any fearful behavior.
- It’s always a good idea to train your pet to settle and focus on commands for treats, toys, and play time. You can associate this training with a location in your house where the fireworks noise will be less pronounced. Use training cues such as a favorite blanket, some brushing time if your dog or cat enjoys that experience, or preferred treats. Then when the fireworks begin, the command, location, and cues help create an immediate calming reaction.
- On the day itself, make sure that your pet is safe and secure in a familiar environment, with well-known people around if possible. Even the most placid dog or calm cat can behave unpredictably when frightened, and if your pet escapes he or she can easily become injured or lost. Make sure windows and doors are closed so the sounds are muffled as much as possible, and so there’s no easy avenue for escape.
- Some pets appreciate background sounds from television, radio, or music. Leave a fan running or play “white noise” through your sound system or from a white noise device to help block outdoor noises.
- There are products available to help keep your dog calm during fireworks and thunderstorms. Anxiety wraps such as the Thundershirt® or a head halter for control may help calm your dog. Allowing your cat to hide in an enclosed, dark space can help keep him or her settled and calm as well.
- Medications, including holistic remedies, may be useful in some cases, but should only be given under veterinary supervision. The veterinarians and nurses at Mission Animal & Bird Hospital can answer any questions that you might have. Remember they should be given so they take effect before any noise starts or panic sets in – usually at least an hour prior to the event. Some anti-anxiety medications need to be used days or weeks prior to seeing an effect.
Keep in mind that the festivities may take place on different nights in different locations. The fireworks at El Corazon Park in Oceanside are scheduled for July 3rd this year. The celebrations on Camp Pendleton, at Legoland in Carlsbad, and at Brengle Terrace Park in Vista, are scheduled on July 4th.
For those who will be out and about over the holidays, our BARK Avenue Resort & Kamp offers overnight accommodations (as well as day camp for dogs) in a safe, quiet, and comfortable environment. Considered by many to be the most outstanding pet boarding facility in north San Diego County, our doctors and nurses are always available on the premises.
And remember, the doctors and nurses at Mission Animal & Bird Hospital are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for you and your beloved pet. Whether it’s a veterinary emergency or simply a question, we are only a phone call away at 760-433-3763.
Dr. Bob Cartin