How to help nervous pets during fireworks season

07/03/2014 9:22 AM

07/04/2014 6:31 AM

The Fourth of July is a scary time for many pets. No matter how brave or how big they may be, many animals are frightened by loud noises, making fireworks a traumatic experience for them.

One way to calm a cat or dog is to bring it indoors and put it in a basement or a back room where the sound will be muffled, said Stacey Stamps of the Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills.

Other ways to calm a pet, experts say, include:

• Turning on white noise, such as a radio, fan or television. CDs that are specially mixed for pets to listen to while exposed to loud noises are also available.
• Using a ThunderShirt, which is basically a weighted jacket that cocoons the animal with light pressure to make it feel more secure.
• Keeping the blinds pulled.
• Having the pet rest in its crate or kennel and placing heavy blankets over it to darken the space and create a quiet sanctuary.
• Playing with your pet and feeding it well. A tired pet with a full belly is usually less active and less prone to stress, and may even nap right through the noise, said Dennis Graves, animal services supervisor for the city of Wichita.

For more extreme cases, many vet clinics offer mild sedatives for pets.

Every pet is different, so each may require unique treatment when frightened, Stamps said.

Nate Matt owns a 110-pound Brazilian mastiff that he says is “exceptionally well-behaved, except when she hears fireworks or thunderstorms.”

For Matt, the best way to calm his anxious dog is to let her find a small, quiet space to curl up in that allows her to feel protected.

Some dogs don’t deal with loud noises in such a calm fashion, though. If a pet has the opportunity, there is always the possibility it will run away when it hears fireworks.

To help prevent animals from straying, Stamps suggests keeping them inside and away from open doors.

Susan Nelson, a Kansas State University veterinarian, suggests keeping pets indoors even if they aren’t afraid of fireworks.

Some dogs, she said, will try to retrieve lit fireworks, burning their mouths or paws. Dogs also will attempt to eat anything that smells like food, including skewers or scouring pads used to clean barbeque grills.

Dogs usually don’t develop noise phobias until they get older, Nelson said. A dog that wasn’t afraid of loud noises as a puppy may become scared once it reaches middle age. Dogs that are afraid of thunder also are often afraid of fireworks.

For pets that do run away, Stamps has created a lost pet toolkit to make them easier to find. The kits include information for people who have lost a pet, information for those who have found a lost pet and a slip leash. She suggests keeping a kit in the glove compartment of the car.

The Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills has the free kits, as do some fireworks stands in the area.

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