For people, the Fourth of July means picnics, cookouts, fun in the sun and an evening watching magnificent fireworks displays. For pets, the Fourth after sundown is often a night of sheer terror. They don’t understand the concept of fireworks — that constant noise may produce a meltdown. Keep in mind that canine and feline hearing is much more sensitive than ours.
For your pets’ sake, take precautions to keep them safe on this noisiest of holidays.
Some dogs become so frightened by the fireworks’ boom that they will crash through doors and windows. In the days following the Fourth of July, animal shelters are inundated with lost pets. If you aren’t home on the evening of the Fourth, keep your dog in a safe, quiet area where he’s less likely to hear the noise. If he’s used to a crate, that may be his safest place. Turn on the TV or soothing music to distract him and hide outside noise, and draw the blinds or curtains.
Make sure he has a collar on with identification tags, and have him microchipped beforehand in case he does escape. Prepare for a worst-case scenario by taking a photo, if you don’t have plenty of recent ones.
Never leave a dog outside on the Fourth of July, even if that’s where he spends most of his time. If the whole family is going out to watch fireworks, this is one event where Fido should definitely stay home.
Natural remedies for anxiety
Keep some natural remedies for canine anxiety relief on hand for the Fourth of July and thunderstorms. You might consider herbs such as:
- Chamomile — give your dog some cooled chamomile tea with his food to calm him
- Lemon balm — reduces excitability and induces drowsiness
- Valerian — reduces tension and has a sedative effect.
Certain essential oils — used either in a diffuser or a drop or two behind the ears — has a relaxing effect on nervous dogs. Oils especially suitable for noise anxiety include:
- Lavender — the classic oil for calming
- Melissa — also known as sweet oil, it soothes nerves and smells terrific
- Neroli — this oil derives from the white flowers of the bitter orange tree, and significantly reduces stress.
Always use high-quality, therapeutic grade oils. Make sure your dog can’t lick and ingest the oil.
If your dog reacts so badly to noise that he is in danger of jumping through a closed window or otherwise escaping, contact your vet for a prescription sedative or anti-anxiety medication. You don’t want your dog on these drugs long-term, but for severely stressed animals it is possibly the best option for the Fourth.
If your dog freaks out on the Fourth or during thunderstorms, you may want to invest in an anxiety vest. These garments exert gentle pressure, similar to swaddling in infants. If your dog starts pacing, whining, panting, trembling, hiding or exhibiting any type of anxiety when he hears loud noises, an anxiety vest offers comfort. The overwhelming majority of dogs — roughly 80 percent — calm down considerably when wearing one of these compression shirts. These vests are useful if your dog suffers from other anxiety-related conditions, including separation, barking and travel.
Cats are just as susceptible to fear on the Fourth as dogs. They’re more likely to find a quiet place to hide, but again, make sure your cat is indoors. Many of the same tips are useful for felines as well as canines, although essential oils are not suitable for cats, and you must take care with herbs. Anxiety vests for cats are available, and if you can get one on Kitty without serious scratching ensuing, it may keep her tranquil while fireworks go off.
If you have horses, you know they possess a fight-or-flight response. When the earth shakes from loud booms, the flight response is triggered. Even if you don’t normally keep a halter on your horse in the barn or field, put a breakaway halter with your identification on your equine in case he manages to get loose. Check your gates and fencing to make sure everything is secure.
The fifth of July
Check your yard and/or pastures to see if any debris landed there. You don’t want your dogs or other animals to taste or play with fireworks detritus. If you had guests, make sure to clean up any leftover food or alcoholic beverages before your dog does.
Here’s hoping you and your family — including those with four legs and a tail — have a wonderful Fourth of July.