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K-State Today

July 2, 2018

How to manage fireworks anxiety in pets this July Fourth

By Matthew Blomberg

Fireworks and your pet

While the thrill of fireworks blazing in the skies above are a treat for us on the Fourth of July, our furry friends may not be as happy to see this particular holiday come around.

Many animals, especially dogs, are afraid of the pops, whizzes and booms caused by fireworks. Pets with anxiety may exhibit signs of heavy panting, a furrowed brow, rapid pacing back and forth, a desire to bolt outside through an open door or window, lack of interest in eating, hiding underneath objects, or just wanting to be extra close to you, according to Susan Nelson, veterinarian and clinical professor at Kansas State University. These are all indicators that your pet is under duress.

Nelson shares these tips to ensure that your pets stay calm and safe this July Fourth.

  • Project calmness as some dogs will become more fearful if they sense their owner is nervous.
  • Keep your pet in a crate if that is where they feel the most secure. Some dogs prefer the door to remain open so they don't feel too confined. You also can cover the crate with a blanket, which may make it feel more secure.
  • Some animals may choose to hide under beds or in closets instead of being crated.
  • Keep pets in a basement where the noise may not be as loud and the flashes of light are easier to block out.
  • Consider taking your dog to an amendable friend's home that is free of fireworks.
  • Make sure your pet has proper identification such as tags and/or a working microchip in case they run off.
  • Put cotton in their ears to block the noise or purchase dog ear muffs for them to wear.
  • Pull blinds and curtains to block out light flashes.
  • Tinted dog goggles also can dim the flashes of light.
  • Turn up the volume on a TV or radio to help block out noise.
  • Have your dog wear an anxiety wrap.
  • Keep your pet indoors to prevent running away or getting injured by fireworks. Some dogs may retrieve lit fireworks and mouthing or stepping on recently exploded fireworks can lead to burns.
  • Natural products and supplements can help with anxiety but many not be enough for extremely phobic dogs.
  • Fill the room with lavender incense or put a few drops of essential oil on a bandana for the dog to wear — do not put the essential oil directly on the dog.
  • Use dog appeasing pheromone diffuser or dog collar.

Extremely phobic dogs may need prescription anti-anxiety medications to keep them from harming themselves, Nelson said. Speak with your veterinarian if your dog exhibits extreme anxiety to fireworks.