While watching a firework display from your house sounds like a great time, Jacksonville, FL area veterinarian, Dr. Gutta, paints a different picture for pets. More pets run away from their home on the Fourth of July than any other day. This is due to a common thread amongst dogs and cats—a fear of fireworks. Our veterinarian describes how dogs and cats are affected by fireworks.
Why is my dog scared of fireworks?
While not every dog has a fear of fireworks and even thunderstorms, many do. And there are valid reasons behind why:
- Loud sounds. When fireworks explode, they make a loud booming sound. Because dogs have a very keen sense of hearing when compared to humans, the sounds made from fireworks, including whistles, cracks, and booms, can be extremely alarming.
- Unpredictability. While humans who are celebrating the freedom of America know to expect fireworks on this holiday, dogs do not. The sounds of fireworks and firecrackers come without warning, and each one makes a different kind of sound. Additionally, when fireworks are set off at different intervals and from different distances, it is difficult for a dog to get used to the sounds.
- Fight-of-flight response. Because of the unpredictability of these firework sounds, dogs (and cats) may perceive them as a threat. Their fight-or-flight response is triggered, and signs of anxiety may appear, including pacing, panting, restlessness, and whimpering.
- A feeling of being trapped. Dogs and cats who are scared of fireworks may want to run from them—but when they are in the house with the doors and windows closed, they are unable to run away. This causes a pet to feel trapped and fearful as they continue to hear the loud noises occur.
What can I do to keep my dog calm and safe during fireworks and thunderstorms?
Dogs and cats have many reasons to fear loud sounds during thunderstorm season and holidays such as the fourth of July. Here are a few tips and recommendations from our veterinarian regarding how to help your pet feel safe and more secure during these occurrences:
- Keep your pet inside. Even if your pet is used to spending most of their time outdoors, this is an excellent time to bring them inside when firework displays are occurring. This will reduce the chances of the pet running away when they are scared, which increases the risk of many dangers to them.
- Create a place that is safe and comforting. If you have a crate-trained dog, your dog may already see his or her kennel as a safe space. Have the crate readily available for your pet to escape to feel more comfortable. If this is not the case, put your pet’s bed, favorite blankets, and toys into a smaller room such as a bathroom. Play loud music or white noise to help distract your pet and hopefully drown out the severity of most firework booms.
- Consider calming vests and coats. Many specialty vests and coats are specifically made for pets that are anxious during thunderstorms and fireworks. These shirts fit tightly over the pet and offer light pressure that can make them feel as though they are being held and hugged by their owner. This can be soothing and extremely calming for them. These vests and coats are great for situations such as these.
- Desensitize. Another option that can be considered ahead of time is desensitizing the pet to these loud sounds. This includes playing firework sounds repeatedly at a lower level and giving your pet treats. Over time, increase the sounds while playing with your pet. Instead of being fearful, your pet will associate the sound of fireworks with happy moments, not scary ones.
Are you interested in learning more about how to care for your pet during fireworks and storm season?
Now is a great time to connect with Dr. Gutta and the veterinary team of professionals at Bluestar Pet Hospital and Grooming in Jacksonville, FL. Our team provides comprehensive care for dogs and cats for local pet families. Call (904) 720-4272 to schedule an appointment, and visit our practice at 11048 Baymeadows Road, Suite #4. We also have another location conveniently located in St. Johns, FL off Ct Road 210.