Fireworks and Your Pet
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The Fourth of July is less than a month away, and we all know what that means - fireworks. For us, fireworks entail a few minutes spent ooing and aahing, but for our pets, especially dogs, it is a terrifying experience they do not really understand. 
Since most animals have very acute hearing, loud bangs can actually cause them physical pain in their ears. This pain does not just affect dogs, but rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, birds, ferrets, hamsters, and cats, too.  

How to Desensitize Your Pet

This might prove a bit more difficult with cats, but there are ways you can prepare your dog for the upcoming celebrations. Even if you do not plan to shoot fireworks, there is a decent chance anyone living around you will.  
Find a video online of a fireworks show that has clear audio. Play the video at a low volume a few times day while engaging in behavior that your dog or cat considers positive such as giving them treats, petting, or playing with them. Over the course of several days, slowly raise the volume of the video while continuing to engage in positive reinforcement as it plays. If your pet begins to show signs of fear as the volume increases, turn it down to a more comforting level. Continue to repeat this pattern until the volume is at its loudest and your pet no longer becomes fearful.

Help to Ease a Your Pet's Fears

If desensitization did not work, or if your pet returns to their fearful behavior when they hear actual fireworks, there are ways you can help put them at ease if the fear is mild to moderate. 
  • Continue as normal. Although it might be in your nature to comfort your scared pet, this can actually reinforce their fear. 
  • Try to stay calm, yourself. When you tense up or jump, it tells your dog or cat that something is wrong.
  • Try to block out the sound with your TV and by closing off the house from outside sounds and flashes of light as much as possible. 
  • If your pet wants to hide or wine, let them do so. Pushing them out of their comfort zone could result in aggressive behavior.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing easy to read identification in case they get out of the home.
  • Provide a safe area for your pets to go in the home while fireworks are active. If they prefer a specific spot, make sure they have access to it and provide extra blankets in the event they want to hide.
  • Do not leave your pet home alone during these type of events, and if you do, do not get upset with it if it has been destructive in your absence.
  • Do not confine your pet to any area as they can become destructive when stressed and might even injure themselves trying to escape.
  • Do not leave a dog tied up outside while fireworks are going off. It is common for them to run away during this time of year.
  • Consider chipping your pet in the event that they do get scared and runaway.
  • Never take your pet to a fireworks display. 
If the dog is severely scared of the sound of fireworks, other precautions might be necessary such as talking with your veterinarian about an anti-anxiety or sedation medication.

How to Protect Other Household Pets from Firework Noise

If you have any type of pet besides a cat or dog, there are still measures you can take to ensure your pet suffers the least amount of stress possible.
  • If possible bring cages to a quiet indoor area.
  • If bringing them indoors is not an option, turn their enclosure so that a faces a wall or fence instead of an opening.
  • Provide extra bedding in the event they would like to burrow feel safe.
  • Cover bird cages or hutches with thick blankets to block out any bright lights and cover as much sound.
Pets-ercise provides dog walking and pet sitting to the Norfolk, VA area. Tara, a certified professional pet sitter, is a life long pet lover and has personal experience and compassion for both senior citizen and special needs pets. Contact her today if you plan to be out of town or have a hectic work schedule that requires your pets to be alone for long periods of time.