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Pets and Pyrotechnics: How to Celebrate a Safe “n” Sane July 4 With Your Pet

It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without the celebration of a fireworks display in the night sky. But for your pets, the holiday can be a frightening nightmare.

Some animals aren’t bothered by the sights and sounds of fireworks. But others are terrified, becoming nervous, upset, and stressed. Unlike humans, animals have a keener sense of hearing, and the unexpected explosion of fireworks—whether a simple backyard celebration or a huge, professional production—can cause panic in dogs, cats, horses, and even birds.

What we consider patriotic can be terrifying to our pets. We urge all pet owners to give extra attention to ensure their animals are safe and protected during Fourth of July celebrations. Because some pets, especially dogs, can become more sensitive to sounds like thunder or fireworks as they age, even an animal that hasn’t reacted in previous years could become unexpectedly fearful.

Dr. Julie Ryan Johnson, an experienced animal-shelter veterinarian and past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, says July 5 th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. “Because some dogs will panic from the loud fireworks and bolt through windows or other enclosures and run away, it is critical that pet owners make sure their animals have secure visual identification on them,” she said.

Some of the common signs that your pet is spooked by fireworks include: shaking and trembling; barking and howling; excessive drooling; attempting to hide; refusing food; and trying to leap a fence or escape from a house or other enclosure.

The sounds and sights of fireworks cause problems for horses as well. Frightened horses have been known to run through or jump fences, resulting in serious injuries, lacerations, or impalement.

To ensure your pet stays safe this Fourth of July, here are some safety tips recommended by the CVMA:

  • Keep small pets indoors at home in a safe, sheltered area. Turn on the radio or TV for distraction.
  • Never leave pets alone outdoors, even if tethered or in a fenced yard. Dogs, especially, may escape and become lost or injure themselves by chewing or choking on their leashes.
  • Do not take your pet to a fireworks show or leave it in your car unattended. If you must be outside with your pet, be sure to keep it on a leash or in a carrier.
  • Protect animals from children who may not realize that waving sparklers or setting off “safe” firecrackers could upset a family pet.
  • Make sure your pet’s I.D. tags are current, so you can be reunited easily in the event that it runs away.
  • If your dog or cat is extremely fearful or easily stressed, talk to your veterinarian about a mild sedative or tranquilizer to calm its fears.
  • Horses may need to be sedated. Make sure all sharp objects are removed from their enclosures. If you have stalls, keep them in their stalls rather than outside.