While the Fourth of July is a joyous celebration for Americans, for pets the fireworks are as welcome as a thunderstorm and just as scary. Due to the loud noise caused by fireworks, more pets run off and become lost on July 4 and December 31 than any other days of the year. With a little care and planning, you can protect your pets during this stressful time for them. Here are 10 pet safety tips for the Fourth of July.
1. Keep your pets indoors
If fireworks are being set off in your neighborhood, the sounds will echo everywhere and disorient your pet. Better to just bring them in for the night where they feel safe. Close the curtains. Turn on music or the television. If your pet is especially nervous, put him in the basement. If you don’t have a basement, set up a safe place in the middle of your house. Make sure this safe zone is away from windows where the noise is much less. Make it inviting for pets with a comfy bed and a cozy pile of blankets. Cats and dogs will both love this.
2. Keep tags and microchips up to date
Sometimes your pets will get out of the house even with your best attempt to keep them there. Hopefully they’ll be able to get home on their own. But if they get picked up by animal control or if a neighbor finds them, having your pets tagged and tracked is the best way to get them back. Sometimes pets can get far away from home in just a short amount of time. Make sure the people who find them will know where they live with up-to-date tags or microchips.
3. Wear pets out before fireworks start
Cats and dogs both do a lot better when they’re too tired to be scared. Take your dog for a walk in the park for some extreme fetch. Or take out the laser pointer and let your cat go wild. Either way, the more tired they are, the greater the chance they’ll be able to sleep through the noise and confusion of firework. Or at least they’ll be be too tired to be anxious.
4. Do not take pets with you to the fireworks show
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it needs to be emphasized. Even if you’re going to your dog’s favorite park to see fireworks, resist any notion of bringing him along. That’s the last place he should be on Fourth of July night. If you’re not staying home, get a pet sitter for the night so there’s a human presence for your pets. They’ll be calmer if they see a human is calm, because they take a lot of emotional cues from us.
5. Desensitize pets to fireworks with YouTube
If you start training them young enough, you can get your pets used to the noise and confusion of fireworks. There are YouTube videos of fireworks that can help you train pets to get used to the havoc. Played on the television (which they are mostly disinterested in), you can get pets feeling the scary sounds won’t hurt them. Accompanied by treats and toys, it’s fun time. YouTube videos won’t completely cure pets from panicking during fireworks, but they can certainly help.
6. Do not set off fireworks around your pet
Unlike using YouTube videos, setting off real fireworks around your pet won’t desensitize them. You’ll just scare them witless. Also, fireworks contain chemicals like arsenic and potassium nitrate, which can hurt or even kill your pet. Even after fireworks have gone off, these chemicals remain on the ground. Be sure to clean up any fireworks debris in your yard afterwards. If your pets can pick it up, you can bet they will.
7. Provide positive reinforcement to pets on the Fourth of July
Put out their favorite chew toys or games. Be sure to buy some special treats so they know it’s a good day. But feed them early, before the fireworks start. Many animals will not eat if they’re anxious. Give your pets tons of affection and belly rubs. The good feelings may last through the entire experience. The more you prepare them, the better off they’ll be.
8. Make pets feel snug and safe
There’s a technique that dog owners swear by, and that’s the power of gentle pressure. Putting your dog in a snug vest or winding an ace bandage around his midsection can help him feel more secure. This also works great during thunderstorms. Just like how babies like to be swaddled, animals enjoy feeling close. Cats aren’t as fond of the procedure, but if you’ve ever seen them swaddled up in a towel on the internet (aka the purrito), you see that they can enjoy the sensation if they already feel safe.
9. Use scent therapy to calm pets
Just like they do for humans, scents can calm pets, too. There are specific products you can get that will work just like a diffuser, but for your pet. It won’t annoy you but it will sure help them. Not every pet will like it, but it’s an avenue you can try. Just make sure to avoid using essential oils that are dangerous to cats.
10. Administer anxiety medication if necessary
In extreme cases, you might want to see if the vet can recommend anxiety medication for your pet. There are over-the-counter options available, mostly to keep pets calm during plane rides and other scary trips. Some of these medications are disguised as treats, so your pet will be none the wiser. If you’re unsure if your pet will take the meds well, your vet will help you with this.