I’m truly devastated every single year to see hundreds of posts on Facebook and other popular social networking sites in the days following July 4th celebrations regarding lost pets the morning after all the festivities of the July 4th weekend. Pet parents  frantically try to locate their beloved fur-kids who had become frightened of the loud noises associated with the fireworks and run away.  The same behavior happens in thunderstorms, because many pets are terrified of loud noises.

As a the pet-parent of my own three fur-kids and the owner of a business in which we deal with pets that suffer anxiety issues every day, I can tell you that for a pet affected by loud noises, the sounds of fireworks and thunderstorms can be a terrifying time.  Just like a small child, your fur-kid has no control over their reaction to loud noises.

Signs induced by fear of loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms, etc. include:

  • Shaking, trembling
  • Excessive drooling
  • Barking, howling
  • Trying to hide or get into / out of the house, fence, or other enclosure
  • Refusing to eat food
  • Some animals may lose bladder or bowel control or experience temporary diarrhea from prolonged stress

Every year when we go visit client’s homes after July 4th there are some poor fur-kids that are STILL hiding underneath beds and furniture because they are terrified of the noises that had occurred the evening before.

Many times they can’t be coaxed out, even with treats.

Years ago I had a boxer that I rescued that went through a plate-glass window during a Fourth-Of-July celebration, resulting in severe lacerations to her feet and legs.  I’ve seen torn fencing, foot pad injuries  and broken teeth from fur-kids trying to chew their way out of metal crates.  I have a client who is the pet-parent of a large-breed dog who was gone for a day out of town. There was a thunderstorm in her absence and she came back to a bedroom door that was chewed almost entirely in half (I saw this with my own eyes). Can you imagine how terrified and frantic a fur-kid must be to want to escape that badly? Sadly, many pets get loose and are lost forever. 

Our fur-kids, much like our people kids, do not have the ability to “rationalize” their fears. So  ”disciplining” your fur-kid by yelling at it or striking it does NOT work and will only make their fear WORSE (and hey….would you hit your people-kid for being scared? Me either.).  

Here are a few things you can do to help your pet during a storm or fireworks display:

  • Get them a “Thundershirt” –  A “Thundershirt” is an actual jacket-type shirt that fits snugly around your dog and applies a gentle, constant pressure that has been proven to have a dramatic calming effect for most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited. Thundershirt is recommended by thousands of veterinarians and dog trainers.
  • Keep fur-kids home –  It may be tempting to bring along your dog(s) so everyone can enjoy the fun of events like Fourth Of July celebrations, but the loud noises aren’t usually fun for pets.
  • Keep fur-kids indoors if possible – Close blinds and turn on the TV or radio loud enough to drown out the noise.  
  • Provide a safe “escape” place – Many times pets will seek out a small den-like place (like underneath your bed, furniture or in a crate), if they are fearful or stressed. If you do not already have a crate or similar place that your pet can call his/her “own,” create a safe place and get your fur-kid familiar with it. I have found that a blanket thrown over the crate is very calming as well.
  • Use a leash or carrier-If you must be outside with your fur-kid, keep the pet on a leash or in carrier at all times. If they are on a leash, make sure they cannot slip their collar.
  • Practice fire safety – Keep your fur-kids away from matches, lighter fuel, open fires, and fireworks – especially ones that are lighted on the ground. Fur-kids may try to sniff (or eat) fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch fire if too close to the fireworks.
  • Take your fur-kid for a potty-break first – Make sure that your furkid has time to potty before the fireworks start. Some fur-kids are too frightened to potty once a thunderstorm or fireworks begin, and this may lead to accidents in the house.
  • Make sure pet’s ID is current – I can’t shout this from the rooftops loud enough! Make sure that your pet has been microchipped, or at least has identification tags on it that contain your current contact information, in case s/he gets away. This will help the local authorities (who are quite busy this time of year handling frightened runaways).

I sincerely hope that everyone who may have lost their fur-kid due to fireworks or storms is reunited with them safely.  If not, please feel free to post a picture of your fur-kid along with your contact information on our Facebook Wall at www.facebook.com/PawsPetCareAtHome.com for all our friends to be able to see and share.

By Beth Green, Owner
Paws Pet Care