Woof! Pets agonize while people enjoy July 4th fireworks, experts-owners weigh in


Susan DeVaughn with her two golden doodles Sammy and Lily

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – July Fourth fireworks are fun and festive for most people. Still, the resulting loud popping and crackling are downright traumatizing and anxiety-inducing for many pets, especially dogs.

Susan DeVaughn, who lives in Andover, is experienced when it comes to fireworks and keeping her two golden doodles calm. “We keep Sammy and Lily (their two dogs) inside and in their kennels during the heavy firework performances,” DeVaughn said. “On other nights with fewer fireworks and less noise, we just keep them by our sides.”

Lola, female Border Collie mix, available for adoption at LAPP

In a news release focused on July Fourth fireworks, Susan Nelson, clinical professor with K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine said, “This holiday is often a time filled with fear and anxiety for some pets — and it can also be a dangerous time for them as well.”

“The sound of fireworks can make some pets runoff in an attempt to get away from the noise,” Nelson said. “In fact, this is the time of year with the highest incidence of runaway pets, so be sure to keep them secure.”

Nelson said there is also the added risk of pets getting hit by a car because their fear of fireworks will make them less observant of oncoming traffic. She recommends making sure pets have some ID, like a tag and/or microchip, if it gets lost.

More pets run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. So, pet owners must ensure that pets have ID tags on their collar or are microchipped — should they run away or take off.

Vivian and Vickie, female Chorkie mix, available for adoption at LAPP

Pat Morriss, who oversees and manages Lifeline Animal Placement & Protection (LAPP), a no-kill shelter in south-central Kansas, weighed in on how she manages the shelter dogs during the July Fourth holiday. “We have large crates in our office to bring the really frightened dogs in and help them feel secure,” Morriss said. “For the ‘normal’ dogs, we check on them several times from midnight to daybreak. On rare occasions, we use some calming meds.”

Many dogs perceive the unpredictable loud noise of fireworks as threats that may trigger them into fight-or-flight mode. As a result, signs of agitation and restlessness are increased whimpering, barking, panting, and pacing.

Trying to keep pets calm with the help of a white noise machine, playing soothing music, using anxiety wraps specially made for pets, over-the-counter medications, melatonin, CBD oil, or just holding them and keeping them close when fireworks are going off are all commonly used tactics advised by pet experts. 

Daisy, female Long Hair Chihuahua mix, available for adoption at LAPP

Another commonly used tactic for July Fourth evenings is to create a safe, insulated space for skittish pets, preferably in the basement or a room with closed windows and curtains blocking out the lights. Placing the pet’s favorite toys, bed, a bowl of water, and some treats in that insulated space also helps to ease their stressed nerves.

Since dogs have more acute hearing than humans, any loud noise magnifies to higher frequencies, especially for skittish dogs prone to anxiety.

Fireworks are loud, unpredictable, and pose a threat to pets, instantly putting them in fight or flight mode. But there are ways people can enjoy a loud and lit-up July Fourth while keeping their pets feeling somewhat comfortable and safe.

To view more adoptable pets at Lifeline Animal Placement & Protection shelter, click here.

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