Saturday, June 25, 2011

4th of July Pet Safety

The 4th of July is right around the corner, and while you may be excited about the gallantry and excitement of fireworks display, your pet doesn't have that same feeling.

The 4th of July is one of the busiest times for animal shelters, taking in dogs that have escaped their yards, homes, and leashes when scared by fireworks.

In my home, I have two dogs that totally freak out over fireworks (and one with thunder as well).  Meeshka pants, paces, claws, pees on the carpet, and generally goes nuts if one of us aren't around to be with.  During one rather active 4th of July in our neighborhood (it sounded like a war, despite the fact that most fireworks are illegal in the state of Maryland), Meeshka clawed up the carpet trying to get into a closed bedroom door.

If you know that any of your pets are afraid of fireworks, here are some common sense tips, and tricks that have worked with us:

1.) NEVER take your pet to a fireworks display.  If your dog is totally oblivious to fireworks, then viewing them from afar is just fine, but don't bring your dog to a display where they are shooting them off close to the crowd.  The proximity of the explosions, sparks, embers, and spent materials are hazardous to your dog.  Even seasoned dogs may have a reaction to the noise, sound, and smell, so make sure they are securely leashed.

2.) Don't let your dog in a yard, even if it is securely fenced.  If panicked, your dog may try to climb the fence or break through the fence and hurt itself.  Additionally, if your neighbors are shooting off fireworks, if material from the rockets falls into your yard, that debris is dangerous if still hot, and toxic if eaten.

3.) Walk your dog before the fireworks starts.  Sometimes dogs will refuse to go outside when the fun begins and will void in your house.  A nice long walk will also wear them out a bit so their exhaustion may help with their anxiety.

4.) Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags that have up to date contact information.  In case they do get lose, you'll want the finder to be able to contact you easily and quickly.

If you know that your dog is afraid of fireworks, here are some tricks to help ease their anxiety.

1.) If your dog has severe anxiety about fireworks, visit your vet and see if they can't prescribe a sedative that you can give prior to the fireworks.

2.) If your dog has some anxiety, there are several over-the-counter anti-anxiety supplements you can give (check with your vet if your dog has a medical condition or is on medication to make sure the supplements do not interfere or cause an adverse reaction) that may take the edge off.

3.) Create a "safe room" in your house.  During peak fireworks time, we have a downstairs room that is fairly sheltered from the outside noises.  We turn on every piece of noise making equipment there is, from computers playing loud music to tv blaring to help drown out the explosions.  We also provide a "denning" places for them to go that are dark and secure, such as under a covered coffee table, or under my computer desk.

4.) You can try putting a shirt on them.  Sometimes that helps, sometimes it doesn't.  Before you spend money on one of those expensive "thunder shirts" for your dog, see if a tight fitting t-shirt calms them down during anxiety times.  If it doesn't work, don't waste your money buying the "real thing" from vendors.

5.) Try to be comforting, but don't encourage their behavior.  Its a tough line to toe, but you don't want encourage their behavior.  Try to act like nothing is going on, and by all means DO NOT punish them or seclude them away from you, it will only make matters worse for them and maybe make the behavior worse.

Make sure that you have a plan BEFORE the fireworks show starts, and keep your dog safe and happy during this holiday season.  For more tips on fireworks, parties, and general summer-time safety tips for pets, visit the ASPCA site or Google "4th of July pet safety tips" for other informative resources.

Stay safe out there!