Everyone loves the fun of family and festivities of the July 4th celebrations. However, your four legged family members may not have the same appreciation of these patriotic displays. The fear of noises and sounds like fireworks and thunderstorms are known as “noise phobias” and a great number of pets suffer from this condition during the holiday.
Dogs, cats, horses, and even livestock can react to fireworks in ways that could potentially cause injury or even death. Our clients regularly share stories of their pets shaking uncontrollably and hiding in closets at the first sound of thunder and fireworks. Some pets may become “fearfully aggressive” due to the loud noises. Protect your pets from children who may not realize the consequences of waving sparklers or setting off home fireworks. If you are planning on attending a fireworks celebration, leave your pet at home.
During the upcoming celebrations, keep small pets indoors. A good idea is to keep the pet in an interior room without windows. Consider turning on the TV or radio to provide a familiar and comforting distraction. Avoid leaving pets alone outdoors, even if tethered or in a fenced yard. It is not uncommon for dogs to escape or injure themselves in a frenzied attempt to escape.
Many animal shelters report increases of “stray” animal intakes after the 4th of July holiday due to the number of pets running away in an attempt to avoid the noise and excitement. Be sure that your pet has a current ID tag and/or microchip so that you and your pet can be easily reunited in the case he or she runs off.
Desensitization methods are also an option for many pet owners. By playing a CD that contains noises of thunderstorms, fireworks, and gunshots, many pets can be counter conditioned and may actually begin to remain calm during these events. Be sure to check out www.soundtherapy4pets.com for examples of desensitization CDs.
Always remember never to punish your pet for his fearful behavior, but don’t reinforce the behavior by trying to sooth your pet with “It’s ok” or similar words. Paying attention to your pet may positively reinforce the fearful behavior.
Your veterinarian may prescribe tranquilizers or mild sedatives for your pets during this time, but these drugs do have limitations and should not be used on a daily basis. In addition natural methods, such as pheromone therapy or melatonin are also available.
If you believe any of your pets have a noise phobia, talk with your veterinarian and staff about the best ways to keep your pet safe this holiday.