“Two Paws Up Tuesday”
How to Look After Pets During Fireworks
Eighty percent of pet owners have owned a pet afraid of fireworks. Do you constantly worry about your pets during firework displays close to your home? Do you fear you may come home to find that your pets are unhappy or, even worse, dead because of the extremely loud noises? If you can’t ask for quieter fireworks, you will have to do the best you can to comfort your pet. July 4th has the most reports of lost dogs out of any other day of the year. Here are some ways to keep your pet safe and cared for during fireworks.
1. Know when fireworks will be happening and how they’ll impact your home. Contact your local municipality to find out when your area is likely to have fireworks. Mark the dates on a calendar so that you can keep track of when to ensure your pets are cared for. If you know or suspect that the fireworks will be heard at your house, take the precautions outlined in the following steps.
Check that your pets’ ID tags and microchips are in date. If your pet does go running off during fireworks events, it’s much easier to be able to identify its ownership with these features. Fireworks upset pets as a result of the noise, smell of sulfur, and flashing lights.
2. Prepare your pet for dealing with noise by exposing it to other sounds. Desensitization of noises helps to prevent a phobia of loud noises. Use a CD like Sounds Scary, well before the firework season, or after the event. This process should start at least 3-4 months before the celebration of our Independence.
3. Prepare the house. The house becomes your pet’s safety zone, so it’s important to prepare it properly. Keep some lights on. Keeping a light on will calm your pet and make him feel more secure, rather than being scared in a dark room.
Dampen the noise. Close the curtains in the room and, if your animal is a caged one, cover up the cage in a thick blanket, but make sure it is breathable so your animal doesn’t suffocate. This will also help to stop the flashes of light affecting your pet.
Plan to use familiar sounds to drown out the noise of the fireworks. Music from a stereo or turning on the TV are likely familiar sounds that can sooth your pet. Just make sure not to play these sounds ridiculously loud as they can become bothersome themselves. Classical music calms pets. Play the music loud enough to hear over the fireworks, but not to loud to bother the pet.
4. Prepare the room. Select a suitable room where you will contain the pets for the duration of the fireworks. An inner room that is least impacted by the noise is ideal. It should be a room that you can close off to prevent your pet from running about the house and injuring itself, wrecking furniture, etc. If you have more than one pet, be sure they don’t mind being confined in the same room, or select several rooms for different pets. For example, dogs and cats will usually appreciate being kept separate. Make the room cozy. Put down familiar, clean bedding somewhere pleasant such as under a table, on or behind a chair, etc. Add some familiar chew toys, scratch pads, balls, etc., to keep your pets amused and distracted.
Ensure that the room temperature is pleasant; warm if it’s cold weather, or cool if it’s hot weather.
Consider whether sound might be soothing. If your pet is used to music, turn some on at normal volume. Also, the sound of rainwater is very soothing to pets.
Use lavender. This is optional, but you might like to use lavender scented items to help calm your pet. Using heated scent oils or incense is not recommended as a frantic pet can knock them over and start a fire or injure themselves.
Remove any sharp items from the room in case your pet starts jumping or running around.
5. Prepare yourself. In the desire to ease our pet’s pain, sometimes we can transfer some of our anxiety and upset to the pet. If you’ve prepared properly in advance, there is no need to feel upset and worried as you can be reassured about the safety of your pet. Realize that the startled and frantic reactions of your pet are often the principal source of your own upset. Being ready for their reactions can help to keep you calm as well.
6. Confine your pet. Half an hour to an hour before the fireworks are due to be set off, place your pet into the chosen room. If you’re concerned about not being able to locate your pet (for example, cats aren’t always easy to find), consider finding your pet several hours earlier. Mealtime is a good time to round up every pet, provided it falls before the fireworks are set off. Be sure to exercise and run your dog before fireworks are scheduled to start. Doing this can help calm and relax your pet if they are tired. Even if your pet is kenneled, place it into the secure and comfortable room you’ve selected.
7. Provide food and hydration. Be sure to leave sufficient water and food for your pet in the confinement space. Many pets will be uneasy, or even frantic. If your pet has access to water, it will help calm him, and food supplied in your pet’s regular portion will make him feel like it’s a normal day.
8. Keep an eye on your pet, and if possible, stay with them. Comfort and talk to them. Be friendly Stay happy and upbeat, this will make your dog feel less anxious. It is false that comforting your fearful animal can reinforce that fear, just like comforting a child fearful of spiders will not make the child more afraid of spiders. If it’s not possible to stay with her, perhaps because you’re out or busy you may be at the firework display, don’t worry – the previous steps should ensure that your pet has been adequately cared for. Allow your pet to hide somewhere in the room if wished. It’s your pet’s way of coping (a “bolthole”) and dragging them out of a safe spot can increase their anxiety levels. Don’t fuss over them too much.
9. Check on your pet after the fireworks. Reassure him and remove the protection (blankets, etc.) as long as you’re sure that the loud fireworks are over. Let him have free run of the house to see how he behaves before considering letting him return outside (it might be best to wait until morning, if possible). Check for signs of stress in your pet.
Signs of stress include barking a lot, running away, soiling the house, hiding and cowering, clinging to owners, whimpering, trembling and shaking, pacing and panting, and refusing to eat.
If your pet is stressed, keep him indoors overnight. If you feel it’ safe to do so, walk your dog after the fireworks but don’t let him off his harness and be sure to stay with him the whole time.
10. Do a yard sweep before letting your pets back outside. Collect any sparklers, firecrackers, etc., as well as party items and broken objects. This will prevent your pet from being injured by unfamiliar objects.
Check with your vet for specific medications that may help calm your dog based on the type and breed of dog. Your vet is a valuable resource when making decisions to help protect your pet.
Some information courtesy of: Wikihow
Training Tip: Desensitize your dog early to loud sounds and noises. This process can be started as early as 6 weeks old. During this process, be sure to make it rewarding for your dog by doing this around meal times and play times and ALWAYS end on a positive note!
Fun Fact: Dogs with upright ears, like German Shepherd Dogs, use their ears almost like radar antennas, thanks to the 18 muscles they have in their ears that allow them to control the ear’s position and essentially “turn up the volume” on their hearing.
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