Fireworks leave us awestruck, but for many dogs, they can cause severe anxiety. Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff vet, is here to help you with Fourth of July safety tips so you and your pup can celebrate the holiday without a hitch.
Imagine hearing an unpredictable, booming noise and not knowing what it was. That’s how some dogs feel during fireworks. Even inside, the loud sounds can trigger a dog’s fight or flight response, causing them to feel trapped and try to run away.
Physical signs of dog anxiety:
If fireworks trigger your dog’s anxiety, here are some ways to calm them down.
If you’re nervous about your anxious dog’s first Independence Day, ask your vet if prescription anti-anxiety medication could help with stress if needed. Then, with their OK, start giving it to your pup before the holiday (preferably on a chill day), so you can see how your dog reacts to the medication.
Update your dog’s identification tags
Update or create dog tags with your current contact information in case your pet runs away as a reaction to fireworks. Having updated tag information and a microchip will help reunite you. It’s best to keep dogs indoors or leashed throughout the holiday.
Talk to a behavioral therapist
Reach out to your dog’s veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist for any training tips and ask them about behavioral supplements for your pup, like melatonin. Dog pheromone collars, with chemicals that relax animals, are a calming non-prescription alternative.
Create a safe space for your dog
Creating a safe space for your dog is always a good idea regardless of their trigger. Imagine a dog oasis: food and water bowls, their favorite toys, blankets and bedding. Their crate could also be their safe space, but don’t start crate training your dog on the day of the holiday. Choose a smaller interior room in your house like the primary bathroom or closet if they aren’t comfortable or have never been in their crate.
On the day of a fireworks display, close the blinds and play white noise or classical, soft rock or reggae music to drown out the sounds. Leaving the television or radio on can help, too, but in some cases may overstimulate your dog.
Purchase vet-approved anxiety-helpers
Pet-friendly ear coverings can help to drown out the loud noises, too. Calming dog wraps like vests or shirts may make your pup feel secure. Introduce new products to your dog gradually, before the holiday, so you don’t overwhelm them.
Introduce your dog to low-volume fireworks videos
Playing a sound clip or videos of fireworks at a low volume for your pup ahead of the holiday may help desensitize them. Play with your dog; ask them to perform commands or do their favorite tricks as the video plays. Reward calm behavior with their favorite treats and praise. If they seem anxious, try again at a lower volume.
Learn which pet emergency rooms are open on the Fourth of July weekend
If an emergency happens, it helps to have a pet emergency preparedness plan in place to save time. Contact your local animal emergency room or veterinary hospital to see if they’re open. Map the route in advance, so you’ll know exactly where to go if you need to rush there.
Exercise your dog in the morning
Before the celebrations begin, take your dog on a longer walk than normal or extend your game of fetch to get them tired and relaxed during the day.
Leave your dog at home
The bottom line is that dogs should not go to firework shows. The loud sounds can harm your dog’s hearing, and it can be frightening for them even if they don’t show obvious signs of distress.
Utilize your dog’s safe space
Suppose you’re at home, great! Put your dog in their safe space when you start to hear fireworks. Give them a special treat as positive reinforcement to distract them from the sounds. If the room has windows or doors, ensure they’re locked and covered.
Pick up leftover fireworks
Fireworks contain harmful chemicals like potassium nitrate, sulfur and heavy metals. Our dogs are naturally curious animals — protect them from confusing a used firework as a treat by picking them up after the party is over.
If you suspect that your dog ate a used firework, watch out for these signs:
Prevent your dog from overheating
If sunshine is in your forecast this Fourth of July, it’s understandable that you don’t want your pup missing out. However, knowing when the weather is too hot will help protect your dog from overheating. Avoid bringing them out during peak sun hours between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Talk to your vet about applying sunscreen to your dog. Avoid sunscreens with an ingestion warning label, as the chemicals it contains could be toxic. Always ensure there are lots of shaded areas and plenty of water for your best friend, and bring them inside when it’s too hot.
Pick up any food scraps
Any new food (including scraps) introduced to your dog’s diet can cause an upset stomach. Avoid giving them rich treats (no matter how much they drool) and pick up any food scraps off the ground. Here are some foods you should avoid:
Keep decorations and party favors out of reach
Keep all decorations (like glow sticks and necklaces) and utensils out of reach. Toothpicks can damage the stomach and intestines if they’re swallowed. Streamers may look pretty, but they lose their appeal after your dog has eaten them. Items like bug spray, sunscreen or citronella candles are made with chemicals — keep them out of your dog’s reach.
Prevent your dog from eating charcoal ashes
If you’re cooking up a delicious barbecue on a charcoal grill, keep the charcoal ashes out of reach as they can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. Other grilling tools, like lighter fluid or matches, should also be kept away from your pup as they contain toxic ingredients.
Happy Fourth of July! With these tips, you can focus on making happy holiday memories with your dog.
The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.
Photo by Alyssa Graham on Unsplash