The Fourth of July is approaching, and who doesn’t love a good fireworks display? Well, for starters, your pet. The Fourth of July is all about celebration, and while we understand and expect the loud bangs and booms, your pet doesn’t, and the typical noises of the holiday are often terrifying and anxiety-inducing.
The ASPCA reports that nearly 1 out of 5 pets that go missing were scared off by fireworks or other loud noises, and many animal shelters find that July 5th is by far the busiest day of the year.
That’s why it’s important to keep a few things in mind going into this year’s 4th of July celebrations to make sure our little loved ones stay safe and sound. Pet anxiety is a huge risk this time of year, so let’s go over a few super basic, but super important, tips for 4th of July pet safety.
1. Leave your pet at home
This first tip is perhaps the most obvious but the most difficult to follow. This festive holiday brings a lot of unpredictability, so it's best to keep your pup inside. Lower the blinds, close the curtains and windows to help shield your dog from the frightening noises and flashes of light that come with fireworks, firecrackers and other loud celebrations.
Barbecues at the park, trips to a local lake or beach, and firework display get-togethers are amazing opportunities to spend time with friends and family, but they are the most likely place for your pet to run off.
Don’t think it could happen to you? Think your pet is too well behaved? It’s time for a little story:
I had a friend a number of years back who trained animals for a living. She had two personal pets, a Chihuahua and a Boxer, that she had rescued and been caring for and working with for five or six years. These dogs, especially the Boxer, absolutely meant the world to her, and needless to say, she felt comfortable in her abilities as a dog trainer to keep her pets calm and handle any situation that came her way.
One 4th of July, she went out to a field near her house around noon to do some training with her Boxer before heading out for a picnic later in the day. While they were having fun and working an agility course, some kids entered the field and tossed firecrackers nearby. Her dog immediately spooked and sprinted out to a nearby tree line.
Unfortunately, she never saw the dog again.
Moral of the story, don’t take any chances on the 4th of July. I know that you really want your dog with you at that picnic, and I know you think your dog has always handled stress well in the past, but don’t tempt fate! On July 5th, animal shelters are full of frantic people who thought everything was going to be fine on July 4th.
2. Keep your pet indoors and secure
This next tip might seem the same as tip #1, but it has some important differences. If you are going to leave your pet at home, make sure you keep him or her indoors and that you secure their space so the pet can’t escape or get easily injured.
Once your dog is inside, make sure he has a safe place to retreat, like his crate or bed, if he gets scared. Gentle music or white noise can help mask the sounds of the action outside.
Some pets might prefer to be secluded in a closed, secure area of your home, like the basement or an interior room. Close all windows, window treatments, and doors. Then, distract your pet with classical music to help lessen the sounds outside, and play games with him or give him chew toys to keep him busy. Be sure to check on your dog and give him a little love every few hours to reinforce his sense of security.
Fireworks and your pets just don’t mix, and even if you have your dog in your backyard or your indoor/outdoor cat right around your house, the anxiety pets experience from the loud booms can cause them to do some pretty crazy things.
Have you ever heard those stories of mothers suddenly developing super human strength and lifting overturned cars off their pinned children? Well, something similar seems to happen to pets when they hear (and feel!) the finale of your neighbor’s firework extravaganza. Dogs will break ropes and jump over seemingly insurmountable fences, and cats will fly through screened windows and bolt for the hills.
This is why I recommend you keep your pet indoors and make sure you secure all avenues of escape. Plus, be sure you don’t have anything high on a book shelf that might easily fall and harm your pets. Both cats and dogs can be sent into a panic by the loud boom of fireworks which might result in them sprinting around the house and crashing into things.
3. Give your pet a safe place to hide
Now that you have your pets secured indoors, make sure they have a safe place they can retreat to if they begin to feel overly anxious or scared by the fireworks outside. Pet anxiety is a very real thing, and making sure your pet knows there is a safe place they run to will do wonders for helping them relieve their anxiety.
There are a few easy ways you can do this. If your dog has been crate trained, then be sure your pet has easy access to their crate in the event they need it. Also, try draping some blankets or towels over the crate to make it extra dark and cozy. Does your dog have a specific room they feel comfortable in or a particular piece of furniture they regularly curl up on? Spend a little time setting up a nice comfortable bed in their normal safe place and make sure they can access it easily.
Cat’s are a little easier in this department, as they tend to just run under the nearest couch or bed when they feel afraid, but even here you can do some small things to help. For example, one of my cats (I have 4, don’t judge…) is particularly skittish and loves to hide under the bed of one of my stepsons. When we leave the house on the 4th, or any day where the cats might get spooked (we live near an airport that has regular air shows, for example) we double and triple check the door to that room is open. Nothing is worse than an anxious pet not being able to get to their safe place.
4. Try products or goods for your pet's piece of mind
There are many products meant to reduce anxiety and fear in pets. Some include:
Naturally occurring and calming pheromones (Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats) that can be plugged into your wall in the form of a diffuser, sprayed in your pet’s safe place, or even worn as a collar.
Security and anti-anxiety wraps, like the Thundershirt, Storm Defender, Anxiety Wrap, and others.
Many dog parents don’t realize their dogs will be terrified of a thunderstorm, fireworks, or other loud noise until it happens. Unfortunately, running to the store for a Thundershirt or other type of anxiety wrap isn’t always an option. Try wrapping your dog using the TTouch technique https://youtu.be/k5hknVMs1Mo
Nutritional supplements and special diets meant to reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and maintain emotional balance. If you have gone through all the previous tips, you left your pet at home and made her as safe and comfortable as possible, but she still turns into an absolute nervous wreck when the first bottle rocket sets off, it might be a good idea to look into a little natural assistance.
× CBD oil has been shown to reduce anxiety levels in humans, and since humans and other mammals all have an endocannabinoid system, chances are CBD might be able to help with your pet’s 4th of July induced anxiety as well. I know that a lot of people (myself included, honestly) have a bit of trouble with giving “medications” or supplements to their pet, but I’ve come around to the belief that CBD might be as big a help for pets as it is for us. Plus, companies like Grön make CBD tinctures specifically designed for pets, with flavors they might find appealing (heck, you might find these flavors appealing, too!). In fact, Grön is currently running a 25% off sale on all tinctures, including pet tinctures, until the 4th of July. So, if you have ever thought of trying out CBD for your pet, now is the perfect time.
Chamomile is a potent sedative used to reduce anxiety in stressed animals. It has the added advantages of calming your dog’s belly and helping him sleep. Some pets enjoy chamomile tea as much as we humans do. Or you can soak a small treat in the tea and give it to them. It is available in capsule/tablet and tincture forms as well.
A traditional herb used in Polynesian ceremonies, kava kava reduces anxiety, relaxes tension (including muscle tension), and calms restlessness without loss of mental sharpness. Kava kava is a good herb of choice for a tense, nervous or anxious dog. It is available in capsule, tincture, ground and powdered forms.
Ear plugs for dogs, originally meant for hunting dogs who were around guns, can help muffle the noise (if you have luck keeping them in your dog’s ears)
5. Make sure you pet has a chip and that you have recent photographs
Let’s face it, sometimes you can do everything in your power to make sure your pet is safe and things can still go wrong. That’s why it’s important to be ready in the event your cat or dog actually ends up going missing on the 4th of July. You should always keep your pet's microchip and collar ID information updated – and for high-risk situations like the Fourth of July, it's especially important. Nothing can delay the return of a pet like an outdated contact number, or worse, no owner info on record.
Having your cat or dog chipped by a qualified vet can make sure they get back to you quickly in the event they turn up at an animal shelter. Also, be sure you have recent pictures of your pet ready. These will come in handy for lost posters or for sending around to local animal shelters and law enforcement agencies.
It isn’t fun to think about, but taking these precautions can mean the difference between getting your pet back and having someone be unable to find you and keeping your loved one as their own.
Don’t become another statistic! Do what you can to make sure your pet is calm, safe, and secure this 4th of July, and you and your friends and family will be able to enjoy the festivities knowing you have done everything you can to make sure your pet is home and calm when you return.