Catherine Savoia

The Fourth of July holiday is synonymous with fireworks and freedom.  While the festivities are a time of fun and relaxation for us, our furry friends often struggle during the firework displays. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), more pets go missing over the Fourth of July weekend than any other time of year.  MSA would like to share some tips, verified by our on-staff veterinarian, Dr. Steven Velling, to keep your canine safe and happy during the holiday!
  1. Know your dog… Not all dogs are negatively affected by fireworks. According to Dr. Velling, if your dog jumps when a car backfires, they probably will not have a positive reaction to a firework display. Remember, you know your dog best!
  2. Provide a safe space…Provide a safe place for your dog to retreat. Fireworks tend to be stressful for some dogs as they are affected by the sound and the flash of lights when outdoors.
  3. If possible, keep your dog indoors… It is best to keep dogs indoors, preferably somewhere they are comfortable and familiar with so they feel safe. Dr. Velling suggests an interior room with no exterior wall for a basement as these areas will muffle as much sound as possible.
  4. Ensure your dog is properly collared and leashed… Typical firework environments tend to be dark, crowded, and dangerous for a dog. If you choose to bring your dog, be sure that their collar is on tight enough so he or she cannot pull out of the collar, and hold onto your dog’s leash tightly at all times in case the dog startles and attempts to run away.
  5. Ensure proper identification…  Make sure your dog has proper identification in the event that the canine does run away. Dr. Velling recommends getting a micro-chip for your pet, as it is the best form of pet identification. Dogs can lose collars and leashes, but they cannot lose a micro-chip!
  6. Exercise your dog earlier in the day, this will tire the dog out and help put him or her in a calm state. Tired dogs can still become stressed or anxious, but will have less energy to exert.
  7. Try a ThunderShirt… ThunderShirts work by providing gentle pressure which helps to soothe and calm dogs. Dr. Velling recommends this tool for dogs with thinner coats. Remember to condition your dog by introducing the device during a calm state and using it prior a fireworks display.
  8. Distract your dog… Provide your dogs with distractions to help them cope. Noise canceling music, a favorite toy, or an item your dog gravitates toward can divert their attention away from the fireworks display.
  9. Treat your dog… Treats are also a great distraction! Dr. Velling suggests freezing a Kong toy filled with peanut butter or cream cheese. You want something that will last long enough to capture their attention throughout the display.  
  10. Doggie earmuffs… Try earmuffs created specifically for dogs. Remember to familiarize the dog with the earmuffs prior to the fireworks so he or she does not associate the device with a stressful event.
  11. Speak with your veterinarian… If you know that your dog has a noise phobia, consult your veterinarian to discuss the possibility of prescription medication to help soothe the dog’s noise related phobias. 

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