We celebrate Fourth of July with cookouts and parties and fireworks, and it can be non-stop excitement. Our animals might have a different view, though.
"A few dogs or cats may not act any different, but most will get more excited and/or may try to hide or escape from the loud noise," says Trupanion on-staff veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold. "This may mean going under your bed or behind the couch. Signs of anxiety may include barking or whining, licking lips, excessive salivation, yawning or holding their tail low or between their legs."
We know that you want to protect your animal companions. Calming them down when they're freaked out from fireworks becomes extremely important when you consider the safety and happiness of your pet. But how can you reassure your pet that all is well?
1. Exercise your pet before the fireworks
A dog that has tons of energy by the time fireworks start might not be able to contain himself when he begins to hear the loud booms outside. "Pent-up energy may only make anxiety worse. Consider going for a long walk or playing with them early in the day, as in many areas fireworks start long before the sun goes down," says Dr. Nold. "This time of year, some dogs may enjoy playing in a small wading pool, given the warm temperature." Working off that energy ahead of time will go a long way to helping your dog relax before fireworks even begin.
2. Keep your animals inside for the night
Imagine how your cat or dog might feel if they're in the midst of all the excitement of fireworks going on. It might frighten them, and it poses a significant danger to their safety. "It is common for pets to escape from their yard or house, where they can get lost or hit by a car. Pets can become sick if they eat people food or lick up grease from the grill," Dr. Nold says. "People, especially strangers to the pet, can be bitten if they try to comfort an anxious dog that feels cornered. There are also reports of dogs trying to play or fetch a lit firework, which comes with an obvious danger." Your pet will be safer if kept indoors within the comfort and familiarity of your home.
3. Provide a "safe space"
The loud noises from the fireworks outside might still frighten your cat or dog, so prepare a place where they can feel as if they're hiding from the noise. "Most pets prefer to be near you, which may mean watching TV with you if you aren't outside watching fireworks. Some dogs may be okay on a leash with you outside. However, for pets that are more anxious or that you are not able to supervise, it would be best to confine them to a small room or crate where they cannot escape or injure themselves," says Dr. Nold. "Preferably this would be some place that they are already familiar and comfortable with. Give them their favorite blanket or bed and toy. Make sure they have access to fresh water. You may need to make guests aware of what doors should not be opened to avoid allowing your pet to escape from your house." You can build a special fort for your cat or dog with lots of pillows and their favorite toys. Treats and reassurances from you will also go a long way.
4. Soothe them with white noise and calming products
Dr. Nold suggests using white noise, like a loud fan or a radio, can take the animal's mind off the scary noises outside. Anti-anxiety medication can be helpful, too. "There are a wide variety of over the counter options you can try for anxiety including calming collars, pheromone diffusers and supplements. Over the counter options are generally only effective for mild anxiety. Also, they may work well for some pets and not at all for other pets," says Dr. Nold. "Your veterinarian will be able to make recommendations specifically for your pet, which may include a prescription medication or calming diet. Keep in mind for all these products they work best if started before your pet is anxious, which in some areas may mean starting a few days before the Fourth of July." Distracting your pet with food or toys can also help, but it won't be the same for every dog or cat.
5. Talk to your veterinarian about other solutions
Perhaps your pet was still anxious even after trying some of these tips, and you want to find out what you can do for the next time fireworks go off. "Let your veterinarian know what did or did not work, as this may change their recommendations for next year. For example, your pet may benefit from consultation with a behavioral specialist.
Once the fireworks have stopped, having your dog near you is usually the best way to help calm them down," Dr. Nold says. "Most pets are back to their normal self by the following morning. Although, some pets that were extremely worked up may have gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea or lack of appetite. If they do, contact your veterinarian to determine if they should be seen for an exam." Observe your pet for any signs of additional distress, and always contact your vet when you're not sure about something.
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