4th of July is just around the corner (less than a week away!), and that means summer is in full swing, with hot dogs, camping out, and LOUD SCARY NOISES ALL AROUND. At least, that’s probably how your pets feel. While some pets handle the holiday with apparently no stress, others become so upset that it can cause permanent noise phobias. No matter which camp your dog or cat falls into, there’s a lot you can do with just a few minutes of prep to make a big difference on the day (and the days before and after, into which neighborhood and local celebrations may spread).
Start by knowing your plan for the evenings in the coming week, and in particular the day of the 4th. Will you be home and able to respond to your pet’s needs or will he be alone? If it’s the latter, make sure preparations are complete before you go out.
Do you know if your pet gets anxious during loud noises (fireworks, thunder, street noise) or changes in routine? If you aren’t sure, here are some behaviors that indicate anxiety:
- Yawning repeatedly
- Change in appetite
- Destructive behavior
- Licking lips
- Salivating more than normal
- Clingy behavior
- Excessive grooming
- Anxious face and body language (knit brows, stiff or tucked tail, dilated pupils, wide eyes with whites visible, hair on end, ears at attention or flattened against head)
- Urinating or defecating in unusual places
If you think any of these describe your pet during loud noises in the past, it’s a signal to that you can do a lot of good with preparations for the upcoming holiday. Pets who repeatedly experience something that makes them anxious will become more anxious – i.e. every firecracker that goes off will increase your pet’s fear of these noises in the future. Preempting the issue with the steps below can help reverse that trend!
You can help your pet by making a “safe room” that blocks out some of the scary stimuli of fireworks. Try picking a room with few or no windows to minimize light and sound from nearby events. Provide a comfortable bed (that’s different for every pet, but make sure it’s a safe and cozy spot with good air circulation, but not too exposed). For pets who need a kennel, try draping a thin sheet over half of it to help make it feel private, while still allowing air flow. For pets who are left out in the house, provide a comfortable bed in a sheltered area. Play some classical music or leave on DogTV (a streaming channel for dog) to further counteract loud noises. Provide some positive activities (treat dispensing toys or homemade pet popsicles are good options if your pet can have these safely) to keep your pet busy.
Consider anti-anxiety medication for your pet. This may sound extreme, but think of it like going to the dentist for a root canal. You know it’s coming (and trust us, your pet knows when the 4th is coming—they’ve heard the buildup and are already on high alert!), and are at the very least bummed, if not outright panicked. If you had the option of going through the experience at your full anxiety level vs. taking a medication to temporarily relax, it would be an easy choice. Especially if you were a dog and didn’t have to drive or pick the kids up later in the day! If you think this may be right for your pet, please get in touch with us ASAP.
Finally, even if your dog is a total rock star, avoid taking him to any fireworks celebrations, even small things in your neighborhood. He won’t understand what is going on and it may cause permanent behavior changes. He’ll be much happier watching TV, curled up in his fort with a yummy snack! (Heck, some of us may even enjoy that more than the hoopla of going out!)