Fireworks are Scary! Getting Your Pet Through the Fourth of July!
Welcome back to The Water Bowl!
With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, I wanted to talk about noise aversion in pets! July 4th is a day of barbeques, fireworks and fun for us humans, but this holiday can be full of fear, anxiety and stress for our poor pets who don’t understand this particular version of celebration. Fireworks are the most common example of noise aversion that I hear about in animals. A Fear Free Happy Homes article states that two thirds of dogs in the US are affected by noise aversion! It also says that shelters report having the highest numbers of dogs on July 5th because of dogs running away during the fireworks the evening before.
How do you know your pet is suffering from noise aversion? Noise aversion, also referred to as noise anxiety or noise phobia has several signs according to The Drake Center, including:
- Trembling or shaking
- Face or eyebrows burrowed
- Ears back
- Abnormal clinginess
- Hiding or cowering
- Pacing or restlessness
- Decreased or no appetite
I have a video on dog body language and what it means here, which talks about a few signs of anxiety in dogs.
How can you help your pet?
Preparation at home and with your vet can make a big difference! Your vet is a great resource to help you and can prescribe medication if necessary. There are also a few really great things you can do for your pet on your own. I am going to talk about the Fourth of July specifically, but these tips can apply to any noise aversion your pet may have.
1. Minimize their exposure!
If your pet is afraid of fireworks, it is not ideal to have them outside in the open when the fireworks start. Of course, we want our pets to be a part of our celebrations, but having them exposed to the fireworks when they start, will only make their fear and anxiety worse. So, make sure you have somewhere inside they can go before they get anxious and worked up.
2. Provide a noise distraction!
A noise distraction is a great way to help drown out the sound of the fireworks! Music, TV, a fan, or any other white noise will do the trick. You can also use a combination of a few of these, like TV plus a fan. Youtube has some really great resources for calming music for pets; I use them all the time at work for anxious patients. A couple of my go-to’s are Relax My Dog and Relax My Cat.
3. Pheromone Therapy!
There are calming pheromone sprays that you can get to spray on a blanket or a bed for your pet. We use these for cats all the time at my animal hospital. They are most helpful if used before the fear and anxiety set in, to keep your pet calm and are a great adjunct to some of the other tips! For cats there is a product called Feliway and for dogs there is Adaptil.
4. Thunder Shirt
Another great adjunct option is a Thundershirt. It is a shirt your pet can wear that wraps snuggly around them creating pressure that can be comforting and as a result, may reduce anxiety and stress. Dogs and cats can wear them, if they tolerate it, and they come in sizes from XXS to XXL.
5. Create a “Safe Haven”
This is probably my favorite tip because it is super customizable to your individual pet! If your pet tends to run and hide in a particular spot, or if you know a spot that your pet feels comfortable normally, you can set up a safe haven for them there. This is an excellent opportunity to use and combine several of the above tips.
My parents’ dog, Peanut, who is a 5 pound Yorkshire Terrier, is so terrified of fireworks and thunder. One time, we noticed that she runs into the bathroom when she is scared. So, now on the Fourth of July, she has a bed set up in the bathroom where she likes to hide. With the bathroom fan, the TV, and her Thundershirt on, Peanut is very comfortable here. It has worked really well for her and she is much less anxious during the fireworks now that she has this little set-up.
Picking a space your pet likes is the most important! Then, you want to make it as comfortable and pleasant as you can. Give them a bed or blankets to lay on, maybe spray them with a pheromone spray. Give them a noise distraction whether it’s white noise, music, or both. You want to make sure they associate this spot with a positive emotion, especially if they don’t go there naturally. Give them tasty treats, foods or their favorite toy to make this association.
Don’t forget to start preparing in advance!
Anxiety and fear are much easier to manage if you catch them before they happen or really early! Don’t wait until your pet is already super worked up to try and manage it because it likely won’t be as effective. Now that you have a bunch of tips you can try, you can prepare for the upcoming holiday!
Let me know in the comments if you found these helpful and if you have a pet who has noise aversion, I want to know how the Fourth goes for you! Did any of these tips work for your pet? Which ones?
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel here and I’ll meet you back here (or there) at The Water Bowl!
Happy 4th of July!