While many families look forward to the annual Fourth of July fireworks displays in their communities, there’s a good chance the four-legged members of the family feel completely different about the pops, bangs, and booms of Independence Day – especially dogs.
July 4 fireworks often lead to a perilous night for many pets. According to the ASPCA, July 5 is one of the busiest days of the year at animal shelters all over the United States because so many dogs run away from home during celebratory fireworks displays.
Sycamore Vet Hospital’s Dr. Christina Martin says several of her four-legged clients aren’t fond of fireworks or other loud situations, like summer storms, and many display abnormal behavior during these times.
“This is a common issue for many dog owners, and we actually have a name for it — canine noise aversion,” said Martin, a practicing veterinarian in the Midlothian community for more than 15 years. “While humans flock to fireworks shows to marvel at the lights and noise, dogs often have unpleasant physical reactions to sudden loud noises, which can be quite traumatizing.”
Canine noise aversion is a term veterinarians use to express a wide spectrum of a dog’s anxiety and fear-based behaviors associated with noises such as fireworks, thunder, celebrations, construction work, traffic, and other noisy events.
“Noise aversion causes both mental and physical distress for dogs and in some cases can actually lead to a serious level of suffering,” Martin says.
However, there are some preventative practices pet owners can take to lessen the impact of predictable noisy situations, like fireworks shows or storms. Martin sometimes suggests medical treatments for severe cases.
“In some cases, I prescribe a brand of dexmedetomidine called Sileo, which is a non-sedative gel that you place between the dog’s cheek and gum,” Martin said. “With proper training, it’s easy for owners to administer and it works quickly to help dogs better cope with loud situations while remaining fully functional and interactive.”
In extreme cases, Martin sometimes prescribes light sedatives, but she said many cases of canine noise aversion can be helped with commonsense non-medical techniques.
“It’s natural for family pets to feel disoriented during firework displays, so one of the most important things you can do is to keep your dog inside with the curtains and blinds closed,” Martin said.
Here are some other tips Martin offers that may help dogs enjoy a safe, calmer Fourth of July evening:
- Don’t take your dog to firework shows.
- Give your dog a safe place. If you crate your dog when you’re away, drape blankets over the crate to muffle the noise. No crate? Consider, leaving your pet in a smaller-sized space, like a bathroom, until the fireworks conclude.
- Play soft music to comfort your pet.
- Give your dog access to lots of treats and toys to distract them from the commotion.
- In case your dog finds a way to escape the house or yard during fireworks, make sure your pet is wearing proper identification or are microchipped.
Another big reason to keep dogs indoors is that running away from loud noises is a survival instinct for dogs, which can be dangerous, said Martin.
“Many dogs hurt themselves trying to escape yards, cause roadside accidents, get caught in fences, or are lost permanently during firework shows,” she said. “Exercising your pets early in the day will prevent your dog from being outside during the typical fireworks hours that could set off their flight or fight response.”
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