Calming Pets During Fireworks

Whether it is the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, a neighborhood party, or any celebration, fireworks can be distressing to many pets. Fortunately, there are many effective ways to calm pets during fireworks and keep them safe and at ease even during all the booms and bangs.

Why Fireworks Upset Pets

Pets can be stressed in many ways when fireworks are set off. The loud, unexpected noises – booms, crackles, sirens, bangs, whistles, and shrieks – are not familiar to pets, and can be incredibly startling and frightening to their sensitive ears. Similarly, the bright light flashes and different light colors of fireworks can upset pets. As more and more fireworks are used, the residual smoke and gunpowder smells can irritate sensitive noses as well. If fireworks are part of a large family or neighborhood gathering, pets may already be uneasy about so many strangers and so much unfamiliar activity, and all the stresses of fireworks can make the situation even more disturbing.

These unusual stressors can create fear and anxiety in many pets. Pets will react to these emotions differently, and while some animals may become frantic and try to run or escape, others may tremble and hide. Some animals may bark, howl, or whine at fireworks, and others may experience digestive upsets such as diarrhea. Some pets may even become aggressive as their fear grows, biting or scratching anyone who comes near until the fear is eased.

Keeping Pets Calm During Fireworks

There are many steps pet owners can take to calm their pets and make fireworks less stressful. The more steps that are taken, the easier any fireworks-heavy evening will be on a pet.

  • Keep pets away from fireworks. Distancing pets from fireworks is safe and easy. Do not take pets to large fireworks displays or events where fireworks may be present, and if possible, keep them away from individual or neighborhood displays as well. Consider a pet sitter, boarding, or other options far from fireworks action at holidays if necessary.
  • Desensitize your pet to fireworks noises. Several weeks before a fireworks display or fireworks holiday, use online videos and audio recordings to get your pet used to how fireworks sound. Start videos on lower volumes, increasing the volume slightly every few days so it will catch your pet’s attention without causing distress. If your pet is more familiar with firework sounds, they will be less anxious when fireworks may be set off in the neighborhood.
  • Exercise your pet earlier in the day. Give your pet plenty of fun exercise in the late afternoon or early evening well before fireworks begin. This will help work off their energy and may help them stay more relaxed – or even asleep – when fireworks start.
  • Provide a safe, inside space for pets to stay. If it isn’t possible to keep your pet away from fireworks, create a safe space for them in an inside room of your home. A bathroom or large closet can work, or choose a basement room where outside noises and sounds are more muffled. If you pet is comfortable in a crate, move their crate to that safe space so they can stay away from fireworks more easily.
  • Play white noise. Familiar noises can help drown out the sudden booms of fireworks and will help keep your pet calm. Use a fan, radio, or television and leave it on at a comfortable volume near your pet for the duration of the fireworks. Other options include running a clothes drier, dishwasher, or other appliances that the pet has heard frequently and won’t be frightened of.
  • Shut window coverings. If your pet is in a room with windows, shut all curtains, blinds, drapes, or shutters to block sudden flashes of light from outside. Do not leave your pet in total darkness, however, which will only magnify any sudden lights that do appear. Instead, leave an overhead light on so your pet can see the area easily.
  • Distract your pet with special treats. Provide your pet with something special to keep their attention off the fireworks. A puzzle treat, a new toy, or a dirty shirt with your familiar smell can help pets shift their focus and be more comfortable.
  • Use comfort wraps. Some pets respond well to comfort wraps or snug vests. These items provide gentle pressure to the pet and can have a soothing effect for anxious situations, including thunderstorms and fireworks. Be sure the wrap is not too tight, however, or it could raise the pet’s anxiety.
  • Provide deeper bedding. For small pets that like to burrow, deeper bedding can help them feel safer. Even small dogs and cats may like extra blankets so they can create a den-like safe space to retreat from a scary situation.
  • Partially cover pet cages and tanks. If your pets are housed in cages or tanks, use thick covers to partially cover the cage during fireworks. This will help muffle noises and keep out loud sounds, and will help the animal feel cozy and safe. Be sure there is still sufficient air circulation, however, and give your pet a small opening it can peer through to see its surroundings.
  • Block escape routes. Pets that react dramatically to fireworks may be tempted to escape and could find themselves lost and in even more dangerous situations. Before fireworks begin, be sure your pet is secure and that any escape routes, such as pet door flaps, loose cage doors, or fence gates are securely fastened.
  • Comfort your pet. Sometimes the best thing you can do to calm your pet is to stay with them and soothe them. Keep a calm, relaxed demeanor, and pet them with firm, smooth strokes while talking to the animal in a normal, reassuring voice. Do not use an anxious voice, which could increase your pet’s stress, and do not attempt to bodily restrain a struggling animal. Simply be close by and show them they are safe and there is nothing to fear.
  • Consult your veterinarian for medication. If your pet suffers from tremendous anxiety and other steps are not effective, consult your veterinarian about the possibility of anti-anxiety medication or mild sedatives. This should only be used as a last resort, however, and only under the expert advisement of a vet familiar with your pet’s needs and condition.

The Most Important Step

If your pet is at risk from a poor fireworks reaction, it is critical that you be sure the animal is wearing a collar with updated identification tags that include your address and phone number. Have your pet microchipped if possible, and be sure the microchip information is updated. Finally, have several recent photos of your pet available, in case the animal does escape and is lost.

Fireworks can be confusing and frightening to many animals. The more steps you take to keep them safe and calm, however, the better your pets will be able to handle these unexpected disturbances without lasting anxiety.

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