Next week is July 4th. And with the holiday comes the sounds of patriotic citizens celebrating with fireworks in their neighborhoods.

For family pets, the assorted explosives can be an anxiety inducing experience. The loud sounds and bright flashes can invoke a “fight or flight” response. With cats, that means they might try to hide. Dogs might try to run away or, if feeling trapped, may bark or even nip.

So what can you do to help your pets next week?

First, try to reduce your pet’s exposure to the fireworks. If your dog spends most of his time outside, consider bringing her inside next week. This will obviously reduce the noise exposure.  Move your indoor pet to an interior room. If your dog is crate trained, layer blankets over the crate to dampen outside sound and create a safe place for him to hang out in. And consider “sound proofing” your house by playing soft music or white noise where the pet is staying.

You should also look at ways to calm the pet. Products like Adaptil, a synthetic pheromone that sends “comforting messages” to the dog, can help ease anxiety. Many owners have also found success with anxiety shirts or thunder vests that wrap the pet similar like swaddling a baby.

If you have time, the most impactful steps you can take to reduce the stress of the week of fireworks is to acclimatize and incentivize your pet to fireworks. Because the fireworks season begins out of nowhere from your pet’s perspective, you can begin this week to prepare your pet by softly playing the sound of fireworks for a few minutes each night. While the sounds are playing, give your pet rewards for taking part in the training–Play games. Give tasty treats. Or just snuggle for the duration of the exercise. The goal is that your pet will associate the sound of fireworks next week with happy thoughts of time with you. Gradually increase the duration and volume of the sound and until the sounds are playing for 15-20 minutes.

Pets with severe anxiety often find relief through anxiety medication. As with any medication, talking with your veterinarian is an important first step. And remember that home remedies of giving pets human allergy medicine may not be in the best interest of your pet’s health.

It is also important that you adequately prepare for the “worst case scenario” of your pet running away. More pets run away on July 4th than on any other day. So take steps to assist in the recovery process. Ensure that your pet is up to date on vaccinations with identification tags. Consider getting a microchip for your pet. And have a current photo ready in case you need it.

Finally, remember that the chemicals and heavy metals in fireworks can be toxic to dogs if ingested. As we all know dogs that will eat almost anything, check your yard for debris each day and watch for any debris in the streets on your daily walks.

Pet owners who would like more assistance in reducing their pet’s anxiety can speak with one of the doctors here at Family Pet Health by calling 615-907-8387.