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Fireworks and Fido

The Fourth of July is upon us and that means hot dogs, parades, and of course fireworks. Keeping your pet safe during the scheduled (and sometimes not scheduled) events is another thing on pet owners minds this holiday.

Image by Elisha Terada

Which Dogs are Prone to Being Fearful of Fireworks?


Any animal can be at risk for fear of fireworks. They are loud, sudden, and unpredictable from a pet’s perspective. With this in mind, there are some pets that may be even more prone to fearful behavior than others.

  • Pets that historically have noise aversions and sound phobias in other contexts are more likely to be fearful of fireworks.

  • Pets that may have had difficult or even traumatic experiences with storms and fireworks in the past may be more likely to engage in fearful behavior this Fourth of July.

  • There is also some evidence to suggest that as they age, animals can become more fearful of sounds. This is especially important to pay attention to because even if your pet has historically not shown signs of fearfulness during fireworks, they may begin exhibiting this fear as they age.


Before the Fireworks Displays


Working with animal behavior professionals and your veterinarian well before the displays can have helpful impacts on behaviors. In some instances, having a medication on board can alleviate the intense fear during these events. Remember, only a veterinarian can prescribe these medications. Other supplement options can also be helpful, although I also recommend chatting with your vet before trying them.


Also, be aware that shelters see a large increase in lost animals during this week. No one plans to have their pet run away, but there are a few steps you can do to ensure they are found if the unthinkable happens:

  • Make sure your pet is microchipped and update your contact information.

  • Update pet identification tags.

  • Consider having an additional means of tracking your pet. For example, I use Apple AirTags® on my own dogs’ collars around this time of year for my own peace of mind.


Pets may engage in escape behavior such as trying to leave the house to get away from the sounds while they are panicked. As you prepare for fireworks, consider these options to keep your pet secure:

  • Secure doors and windows so there are limited escape routes for your pet.

  • Even if you have a fenced-in backyard, consider taking your pet out on leash, especially as we move later into the day.

  • Take a walk and bathroom breaks in the late afternoon, before fireworks are predicted.

  • Consider having two doors between your pet and the outside to prevent them from slipping past you in an attempt to escape if you need to leave for whatever reason. For example, if you are spending time with your pet in the basement, close the door to the basement before your family member heads out to the fireworks show.


Inside the Home


Creating a space for your pet to spend time during events like fireworks and storms that is inviting for them can also provide some benefit. These spaces are generally interior rooms with limited (or no windows), and can even be a bathroom or closet. If you have time to prepare weeks or even months in advance, it can be helpful to create a space with toys and treats to create a long history of “pleasant” things happening in that environment. Here are some things to do and have in that space to try to help reduce stress before and during the fireworks display.

  • If able, stay with your pet or having a trusted person stay with your pet.

  • Have highly preferred treats and toys available in the room. You may consider inviting your pet to play, but don’t force them to interact with you or their toys.

  • White Noise can be helpful to reduce some of the “suddenness” of the sounds.

  • If your dog prefers their crate, you may consider having a blanket over it, being away of the warmer temperatures this time of year.

  • Comfort your pet. It is important to remember that these fears are not voluntary; they are scared. It is okay to comfort them, especially if they are seeking you out. Some pets do not want to be comforted while they are scared, and that is okay too.

  • Be aware in multi-pet households that a scared pet may lash out or redirect onto housemates. If there is risk for this, keep pets separated during the event.


After the Event


It may take some time for your pet to calm down after the fireworks display. Don’t force them out of their crate or place where they feel secure. Also be aware that there may be rouge firework here or there, especially if neighborhoods are setting them off in addition to sanctioned displays.


Well after the event, be aware of debris and other garbage that may be on the ground or in your yard. These materials can be especially harmful for pets as they contain heavy metals, chemicals, dyes, and other toxins.


A Few Notes for Cats


Many of these comments were written with a nod toward dogs, but cats also experience a lot of fear around fireworks. You also want to make sure they are microchipped before the event. You will also want to secure doors and windows to reduce the potential of them escaping. I recommend providing them with their own spaces to hide throughout the home and in their preferred rooms such as under beds. Don’t try to retrieve them from a hiding place if they are scared; this can cause injury to them and to you.

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