Prepare Your Pet for the Fourth of July

By Drs. Joe Musielak and Stephanie Meyer, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital

Many of us with animal companions know that fireworks on the Fourth of July and at other times can lead to extreme anxiety in some pets. The explosive sounds, vibrations, flashes of light and burnt aromas can trigger the flight instinct, causing pets to run away and/or get injured. 

Even though the Fourth comes on the same date every year, it still can catch us off-guard. Preparedness is crucial to make the Fourth an enjoyable and safe holiday for you and your pet.

The most common option to keep pets calm around the Fourth is to give them sedatives (e.g., trazodone). Some pets are unable to tolerate certain sedatives due to medical conditions or age; always ask your veterinarian before giving a medication. Sedatives are a prescription medication, and your veterinarian is required by law to have examined your pet within a certain timeframe before prescribing medications. Please plan ahead and don’t wait till July 3 to request sedatives for your pet. Note: Dogs and cats should not be given human anti-anxiety meds or sleep aids. Some of these can be fatal for your pet.

Other calming options that do not involve medication include wrapping your pet in a ThunderShirt to calm him (similar to swaddling an infant), or playing relaxing auditory CDs specially designed to calm animals.

If you have the time to prepare, desensitization also can help. This involves playing a soundtrack of loud noises (e.g., thunderstorms, fireworks) at a low level and gradually increasing the volume over the course of weeks. An important part of desensitization is to intermittently reward calm behavior with praise or a treat. Unfortunately, desensitization does take a good deal of time and can make some pets more fearful. Talk with your veterinarian for advice.

Be sure your pet has a safe place to go. A familiar crate in a quiet room can both contain your pet and help to keep her calm. Partially cover your pet’s crate with a blanket to increase darkness and minimize flashes of light. 

Leaving your dog outside (even in a fenced area) is not secure enough when he becomes anxious or frightened. Your dog may bark uncontrollably, chew through leashes, dig under or go over fences, and/or run away in an attempt to escape the loud noises. If your pet does not have an ID tag or microchip, now is the time to get them!

A final option that we as Washingtonians enjoy is the ability to pretty easily visit our Canadian neighbors on the Fourth. Check with your veterinarian for border requirements and the paperwork needed when traveling with your pet to/from Canada.

PVH offers comprehensive and 24/7 emergency veterinary care. If you have questions about keeping your animal companion calm and safe around the Fourth of July, please contact us at 360.568.3113.

Article added 6.6.15