The Fourth of July is associated with barbecues, concerts, and fireworks. But while the latter can be a favorite for us, our dogs and cats don’t exactly feel the same.
Those dazzling and colorful sparks are loud, repetitive noises that can create fear, stress, and anxiety in animals, but there are ways to calm your furry friends during the excitement.
Understanding Noise Phobia
To help calm your pets, it’s important to first understand why loud noises create stress for them.
“Their hearing is much more acute than ours, and repetitive sounds can be especially startling for them,” says Dr. Leslie Sinn, a veterinary behavior specialist at Behavior Solutions in Ashburn. “Their reactions to loud noises are a clear indicator that they have noise phobia.”
Noise phobia is an excessive fear of loud sounds that results in fear and stress in animals. Sinn notes that 20 to 40 percent of pets have some sort of noise phobia, and fireworks are a main trigger.
Ahead of the Fireworks
For pet owners who already know their animals go into hiding or cannot settle during loud events, you may want to talk with your veterinarian.
“There are several reliable medications on the market that would allow your pet to be at much more ease,” Sinn says. “Since we can anticipate when fireworks season is, it’s a great way to plan ahead.”
You may want to buy “thunder shirts” and extra treats so you have them on hand, should you need them.
Other things you can do to make Fourth of July a little easier include the following:
- Walk your dog before dusk.
- Check that they are wearing their tags.
- Feed them well before the fireworks.
- Make sure water bowls are filled.
Keeping Pets Calm
For owners who don’t know how their dogs and cats will react, observation once you hear the first crackling noises from the fireworks is key. Behaviors that raise concerns include being unable to settle, restlessness, pacing and hiding, Sinn says.
“Do everything you can to mitigate the volume of the sound,” Sinn says. “Closing curtains, pulling down shades, and helping the pet settle by guiding them to a location that is away from big windows and open spaces can really help.”
Sinn also recommends using white noise, television, or music to drown out the percussive effect.
In addition to calming sounds, it’s important for you to remain calm and use a soothing voice because your pet will be influenced by your behavior. For pets that use crates, encourage them to go to those safe spots. Have their favorite spots ready with blankets, toys, and maybe a dirty T-shirt or other piece of clothing with your scent on it.
When pets soothe themselves by sitting in a quiet spot or climbing onto your lap, Sinn says it’s good to encourage those efforts, rather than to push your pet to acclimate to the noise.
If your dog shows increased activity, try a distraction activity, such as a food puzzle or playing tug.
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