Boom. Bang. Crackle. Sizzle. While we love the festive feel of fireworks displays on holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, the effect and loud noises they make can be upsetting to pets, including cats and dogs.
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 4th 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 and storms are loud, unexpected and feel like a threat to dogs and cats. And these noise phobias are a common cause of fear and anxiety in pets.
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.
In fact, the ASPCA found that nearly 1 in 5 lost pets go missing after being scared by the sound of fireworks, thunderstorms and other loud noises.
Your pet's natural instincts 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 by placing a calming orthopedic bed or kennel. That way they can imbue beds or blankets with their scent to make it feel safe and familiar.
- Make it a zen space: Close windows, close curtains, close doors—maybe even put a blanket over their kennel or crate—to muffle the loud noises. Make it comfortable with lots of cozy furnishings and toys. Maybe add in some calming pheromones.
- 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 the loud booms. “Either turn on a bathroom vent fan or use one of our white noise machines—and give them something to keep them entertained (maybe a KONG, frozen, with some peanut butter in it),” says Dr. Nelson.
- 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.
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 calming treats: Consider providing an over-the-counter supplement for calming and anxiety. As always, check with your vet before starting any supplements.
- Try 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.
- Play an anxiety-reducing playlist: Music often works wonders to soothe an anxious pet. We have a custom calming playlist on Spotify that’s 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.
Help! My Pet Ran Away—What Do I Do?
If your spooked pup slipped out the front door, and you can't find them, follow these seven steps:
- Stay calm. Your goal and your focus is to find your pet, and a clear mind will help tremendously.
- Contact your microchip company. If your pet is microchipped, go online or call the company to locate your pet.
- Visit your neighbors. Knock on doors. Someone may have brought your pet indoors.
- Post to social media. Post your pet's photo to your own socials, online neighborhood apps such as Nextdoor, or dog park pages.
- Visit local animal shelters. Bring fliers with your pet's photo and your contact info to leave behind.
- Post fliers and call around town. Continue to get the word out.
- Keep looking! And don't give up hope.
What Do I Do If I Find a Lost Pet?
What if a pet landed on your doorstep or you saw a dog roaming around the neighborhood aimlessly? There are a few things to consider.
First, you’ll want to approach a lost pet slowly and gauge their behavior. If the pet allows you to approach and they’re responding to you in a positive manner, you may be able to either bring them home with you or get them in your car and to a shelter or veterinarian. When the pet is safe and secure, you can then locate the family by calling the number on the pet's ID tag, which should contain their family’s contact information. If they don’t have tags, a vet or shelter can scan the pet for a microchip.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I give my pet CBD for fireworks shows?
What can I do if my puppy has to go potty and fireworks are still going off and they are scared?
Can my pet have a sip of my champagne, beer or other alcoholic beverage?
More Strategies to Help Calm Stressed Pets: