Boom. Bang. Crackle. Sizzle. While we love the festive feel of fireworks, the effect and sounds they make can be upsetting to pets, including cats and dogs.
Here are some tips from Dr. Katy Nelson, Chewy's resident vet, to help ease your furry friend's fears and quell their anxiety.
Why Do Fireworks Cause Anxiety for My Pets?
- Fireworks sounds are loud: As you may have noticed, most dogs and cats have exceptional hearing (sometimes it seems they hear things we don't!); so, you can just imagine how loud the booms of fireworks would be to their ears. What is loud to you is l-o-u-d to them.
- Fireworks sounds and flashes are unexpected: You're prepared for fireworks because you know they're likely to be part of many celebrations, including Fourth of July and New Year's. For your pets, it's just another day... and suddenly comes all the noise and flashes and excitement, and they have no idea what all of this is about. That would be scary!
- Fireworks can feel like a threat: Job No. 1 for any pet, especially dogs, is survival; and when loud and unpredictable sounds suddenly fill the air, it can trigger a fight-or-flight response. Your pet's natural instincts can kick-in, and the result can be anything from barking and yelping to pacing or even hiding. None of that should be considered unexpected or "wrong."
What Can I Do Help Keep Them Calm?
Before the Fireworks
- Identify a safe space for your pet: Whether it be a bathroom, a large, well-ventilated closet, or even somewhere in the basement, introduce them to the space in advance so they can imbue beds or blankets with their scent to make it feel same and familiar.
- Make it a zen space: Once you find a safe space, make it comfortable with lots of cozy furnishings and toys.
- Add white noise: It can be a good idea to add in some white noise such as a fan or a white noise machine to help mute and moderate the startling effect of outside noise.
- Work with a professional: If you've observed your pet reacting to noise, it's a good idea to work with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who can do a “dry run” with some of the same stimuli, like flashing lights or louder-than-normal noises—but in a safe and controlled environment. If your pet gives you wags and purr you're on the right track. If not, you’ll know to take precautions on the big night.
- Check their tags: Make sure to check your pets tags and microchips in case your pet makes a run for the door. A lost pet is no one's best way to spend a holiday weekend.
The Day of the Fireworks
- Tire them out: A tired pet is a happy pet. Make sure to take a nice long walk or have an energetic play session during the day.
- Don't feed too many treats: While a treat or two is nice, stay with your pets regular feeding routine to avoid upset tummies made worse by stress.
- Try supplements: Consider providing an over-the-counter supplement for calming and anxiety. As always check with your vet before starting any supplements.
- Or ThunderShirts: Many pets respond well to wearing a ThunderShirt, which are compression shirts for dogs and cats that can have a similar, calming effect to swaddling a baby. Good idea to purchase well in advance and give it a test drive to acclimate your pet to wearing this garment.
- Power-Up an Anxiety-Reducing Play List: Music often works wonders to sooth an anxious pet. We have a custom playlist on Spotify that has been helpful to our own furry kids.
- Don't scold, shame or punish if you do everything right and your pet still loses it. These behaviors are uncontrollable for a dog experiencing fear. Scolding them during this already stressful state only adds to intensity of the situation.Instead, reward them for positive behavior using training treats, like American Journey's Grain-Free Training Bits Dog Treats... or a good head scratch.
After the Fireworks
- Start the day off right with a long walk and healthy regular meal: Your pet, if stressed, might be slow to recover. This can include not eating or refusing to come from under the bed. If this is the story in your house, just give it time. And take what you learned this holiday and apply it to the Fourth of July!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I give my pet CBD for fireworks?
A:Federal and state laws regarding products that contain CBD are complex, and legal landscapes surrounding them is ever evolving. Dr. Nelson recommends talking with your veterinarian about before using any products containing CBD oil.
Can my pet have a sip of my champagne, beer or other alcoholic beverage?
A:Pets should never consume alcoholic beverages in any amount. Alcohol can cause lethargy, respiratory depression, and dangerously low body temperature in dogs and all that plus ethanol poisoning in cats. No amount is safe. Don't go there. If you pet does get into the booze, call your vet immediately.
More Strategies to Help Calm Stressed Pets: