You are likely excited to celebrate during this patriotic time, but your pet may find the July Fourth festivities fear-inducing. Many pets are averse to loud noises, which cause them extreme anxiety, similar to a human’s panic attack. Our team at Pierson Pet Hospital wants to ensure your pet is safe and panic free throughout the holiday. We offer the following steps that you can take to safeguard your sensitive four-legged friend.

By the dawn’s early light … ensure your pet is appropriately identified

If your pet becomes spooked during the commotion, they may bolt and can quickly become lost. Ensure they are wearing a collar and accurate identification tags, so they can be returned to you if they wander astray. In addition to identification tags, microchipping your pet is the best method to be reunited with your pet. Microchipped dogs are more than twice as likely to be returned to their owners as non-microchipped dogs, and microchipped cats are more than 20 times as likely to be returned to their owners as non-microchipped cats. This simple procedure can be performed at your pet’s next wellness visit.

At the twilight’s last gleaming … leave your pet at home

Some pets are social creatures and enjoy a crowd of revelers, but most pets are more comfortable left at home. 

  • If the party is at your house — Post signs on your doors reminding your guests not to let your pet slip outside. If your pet is prone to escaping, place them in an interior room to keep them from absconding when you are distracted. Check on them frequently, and ensure they have all the necessities, including food, water, litter box, and toys. 
  • If you are leaving your pet home alone — Ensure all doors and windows are secure, so your pet cannot sneak out while you are away. If your neighbors will be setting off fireworks, consider leaving your pet in an interior room to help muffle the noise. You can also leave music playing or the television on to help distract them. Food-puzzle toys are a great way to divert your pet’s attention from disturbing noises.

While the broad stripes and bright stars are so gallantly streaming … recognize when your pet is afraid

Pets suffering from noise aversion experience extreme stress and anxiety, and can be affected by physiological as well as psychological problems. Pets show varying signs to indicate they are stressed.

  • Subtle — They may lick their lips, yawn, or lift their forelimb toward you.
  • Passive — Sometimes pets freeze in place, and may also pant, hide, cower, or tremble.
  • Active — Some pets seek their owner’s attention, or show active signs like pacing, vocalization, inappropriate elimination, and escape attempts.

By the rocket’s red glare … know what does not help your pet

Certain actions that you may be tempted to use will only exacerbate the situation. Do not:

  • Scold your pet — They are not misbehaving if they exhibit signs indicating extreme anxiety. If you scold your pet, you could escalate an already negative situation.
  • Force the experience — Never force your pet to endure a traumatic experience, thinking they will get used to the noise. If they feel trapped, they may become aggressive because they want to escape, resulting in injury.
  • Overcompensate — Do not console your pet excessively, because they may mirror your nervousness, escalating the situation.

When the bombs are bursting in air … use desensitization techniques to desensitize your pet

Behavior modification techniques can be used to desensitize and counter-condition your pet. You will need to start this training weeks or months in advance.

  • The noise — You can find downloadable tracks of fireworks noise online. Start playing these noises at a low level around your pet.
  • Positive reinforcement — If your pet does not seem fearful, leave the noise playing for several minutes, and give them treats, praise, and pets.
  • Increase the volume — Over several days and weeks, gradually increase the volume, continuing to offer positive reinforcements when your pet responds favorably. If they begin to show anxiety, decrease the volume to a safe level, and use that level as a starting point for the next session.
  • Trial run — You can judge your training success by taking your pet to a fireworks display. Park close enough that you can hear the fireworks, but where you can easily drive away if your pet becomes overwhelmed. Start with the radio on, and the windows rolled up. If your pet seems fine, turn off the radio. If they continue to be unfazed, roll the windows down to let in more noise. You will know your training was successful if your pet stays calm and collected. 

In the land of the free and the home of the brave … ask about medicating your pet

If your training techniques do not work, and your pet remains a nervous mess, ask our veterinary professionals if an anti-anxiety medication or a mild sedative would be appropriate for your pet. 

You can celebrate your patriotism without putting your pet at risk by following these simple steps. If you would like to discuss your pet’s anxiety issues, do not hesitate to contact our team at Pierson Pet Hospital to schedule an appointment.