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Fireworks not ‘a blast’ for some pets

A backyard barbecue complete with family, friends, hamburgers, hot dogs, and to top it off a fireworks display at nightfall – a perfect Fourth of July celebration, right?

However, while we are admiring those brilliant bursts of shapes and colors, many of our four-legged family members are under attack – or at least they think they are.

Pets are more sensitive to loud noises, flashing lights and strong smells, and since we cannot tell them there is nothing to fear, it can be difficult to calm a nervous animal frightened by fireworks.

The best thing to do if you find you have an anxious pet is talk with your veterinarian about a treatment plan that works for your individual animal, said Dr. Ryan Hart at Hillcrest Veterinary Clinic.

In some cases, veterinarians are able to prescribe medications that help ease the anxiety.  According to Hart, medications are usually a last resort, but at the same time certainly have a place and can be hugely beneficial to pets if planned with your vet.

While it is likely too late to get professional help for your pet this July 4, there are some things you can do in the home to help your furry friends feel safe.

“Obviously if you know your pet is prone to being anxious around fireworks, just totally removing them from that situation is ideal,” Hart said. “But you can’t always accomplish that.”

If you are unable to keep your pet away from fireworks, the American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests creating a safe space in your home away from windows and doors or in a crate if they feel safe there.  

Additionally, trying to create some “white noise” by leaving on a fan, TV or radio can help distract from the outside noise. But the main thing is being there to calmly comfort them if you are able.

A lot of “advice” found online suggests giving scared pets over-the-counter medications such as melatonin or benadryl, but Hart said it is always a good idea to have a consultation with a veterinarian before administering any kind of medication because every pet is different.

“You want to make sure you are administering those doses correctly and there will not be interaction with any other medications the pet is currently on,” he said.

There are also a few commercial products available that many pet owners have had success with.

Hart said one popular product called anti-anxiety vests or jackets, sometimes known as  thunder vests, use pressure points in the body to help pets feel calm. 

“Some dogs react really well to them, some of them aren’t as successful in some patients,” he said.  “But that is something to consider with your pet if you know there are going to be fireworks in the area.”

Concerns about pets and fireworks should not stop with anxiety.  According to the ASPCA, fireworks contain chemicals and heavy metals that can be harmful to pets if ingested.

When setting off fireworks at home, Hart said it is important to make sure all debris is cleared before letting pets back into the area.

If you believe your pet has ingested fireworks, or another toxic substance, contact your veterinarian or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24-hour hotline at 888-426-4435.

Regardless of where your pet will be spending this Fourth of July weekend, some may do anything to get away from the situation.  It is important to make sure they are wearing a collar and identification tag with your up-to-date contact information at all times. Make sure pets are secure — every year, spooked animals escape from homes and yards and can wind up in danger or at the pound.