9 Tips to Keep Pets Safe and Calm during 4th of July Week

Did you know more pets go missing over the July 4th holiday than at any other time of year?

Independence Day is my least favorite holiday because so many animals are traumatized by its loud pyrotechnics and fireworks displays. While it may be fun for some humans, it scares and disorients pets in a matter of seconds, causing them to meltdown in complete terror, with many trying to flee from the safety of their homes only to go missing. 

Why? Animals become anxious and scared when they hear loud noises and see bright flashing lights. Their instincts tell them to run as fast and far away as possible to escape the source of their fear and anxiety.

Throughout the Independence Day weekend, your pets will hear noises you might not be aware of because of their sensitive ears and nervous systems.

Once an animal becomes frantic, it's difficult for them to calm down. Therefore, it's better to prevent your pets from becoming distressed in the first place. Once in the "red zone," your pet can no longer hear you or respond.

Instead, an animal's panic drives them to find a safe place away from the perceived danger. This is why animals tend to hide under furniture, go into a closet, or try to escape their backyards and homes by whatever means possible. Some dogs will resort to chewing through crates and jumping out second-story windows to find safety.

When you see fireworks from a dog's perspective, it's clear how quickly a dog can become spooked and run from fireworks and firecrackers with potentially life-threatening consequences.

Recognizing the physical signs of stress is the first step to alleviating your pet's distress. 

  • Excessive Panting and drooling
  • Ears Pinned Back
  • Tail Between Legs
  • Excessive Vocalizations like whining, barking and crying
  • Licking lips
  • Yawning
  • Restless Pacing and Can't Settle Down
  • Refuses Food and Treats
  • Excessive Scratching, Paw Licking, and Over-Grooming
  • Hides under furniture or in a closet

It's helpful to communicate with your animal family before and during the holiday to help them cope and deal with the loud noises and fireworks.

Kobe Bear 

Kobe Bear hated fireworks and loud noises. 

My second Keeshond, Kobe Bear, now In Spirit, became extremely anxious during the 4th July celebrations. Of course, it didn't help that fireworks were seen and heard from every room in my house for approximately 45 long minutes, two nights in a row.

The first year I had Kobe Bear, I had no idea how upset he would get from fireworks since my previous dog had no problems with loud noises or pyrotechnics. On the other hand, Kobe Bear melted down with intense fear and became inconsolable.

Despite being able to communicate telepathically to Kobe that he was safe, his fear overwhelmed him to the point where he couldn't hear me. As a result, I came to dread the 4th of July fireworks displays over the years because watching my dog suffer was awful.

One year, Kobe was so freaked out that he tried to jump out of a 2nd story window when the fireworks display began as he attempted to escape the scary noises and lights that he didn't understand. Despite closing the windows and blinds, keeping him in a back bedroom, feeding him delicious treats, and playing music, Kobe could still feel the fireworks' disturbing vibrations.

Unfortunately, Kobe Bear's terror didn't stop when the firework displays ended because people in my neighborhood continued to set off firecrackers throughout the holiday. Watching Kobe tremble and bark incessantly every time he heard a loud bang was hard. Despite my best attempts to calm and communicate with him, Kobe suffered terribly.

In hindsight, I should have talked with my veterinarian about giving Kobe medication to alleviate his suffering.

9 Tips to keep your pets calm and safe:

Tip #1: Your pet's ID is their ticket home. If you do nothing else, put a collar with current ID tags securely on your pet at the start of the holiday weekend. ID Tags are the quickest and easiest way for your pet to be returned to you if they go missing. Make sure your information on the ID Tags is current, and remember to include your mobile number.

If you have a horse, you may want to place a safety or breakaway halter on them with your current contact information. This way, your horse is wearing her ticket home just in case she spooks and runs away.

Use ID tags in addition to microchipping your pet. It's important to microchip your pet, especially if they end up in an Animal Shelter. If your pet isn't microchipped already, talk to your veterinarian about getting your pet microchipped before the holiday begins. It's also an excellent time to double-check that your microchip information is up-to-date.

Tip #2: Never use fireworks around your dog or other pets; the noise will spook them with an excellent chance they may run away and go missing. In addition, fireworks can quickly burn the fur on an animal, so it's best to keep them away from this type of hazard.

Tip #3: Exercise reduces your pet's stress. On high-stress days, like the 4th of July, it's an excellent idea to give your animals their exercise early in the day, so they can be tired when their world starts to explodeA tired animal tends to cope and deal with loud noises better than a pet with too much energy. 

Also, take your dog out for a long walk and potty right before the start of the fireworks displays, which may help them sleep. Taking your pets out during the fireworks display or later, when random firecrackers are set off, will significantly increase the chances of your pet going missing. 

Tip #4: Leave your pets safely secured inside your home. Put your pets in a quiet "safe room" or crate where they can't accidentally escape. Having a "safe room" will also reduce their stress.

Cats are amazing escape artists. Put cats, including outdoor cats, in their "safe room" with their litter box and fresh water. Make sure they are wearing a collar and ID. You may want to consider using a GPS collar if you're concerned about your pet escaping.

Tip #5: Stay home with your animal friends. It's key you remain home to be a calming influence for your pets, especially if they feel like their world is crashing down around them. Many animals tell me they cope better when their person is with them. Otherwise, they say, it's overwhelming to deal with loud, thunderous noises that might swallow them up or, even worse, hurt them without their person to protect them.

Your pets will be happier and safer if they stay home. You may think bringing your dog to fairs, holiday celebrations, and fireworks shows is fun, but I promise you, it's no fun for your dog. In fact, it can be a scary experience. If it's hot, your risk burning your dog's paws or experiencing heatstroke.

Tip #6: Decrease visual stimulation. Bright, flashing lights can upset animals, sometimes to the point where they will jump out of a 2nd story window like in Kobe Bear's case. Keep blinds and curtains shut and close the windows. If need be, put your dog in a crate with a towel placed over it. 

Last year, someone let off a large firecracker near my home. The big flash of light before the loud boom freaked my dog Bodhi out. Until he saw the light, he was okay dealing with the noise. Then he melted down, and it took a while before he could relax.

Tip #7: Use anxiety vests, also known as Thunder Shirts, and calming music to help decrease your dog or cat's anxiety without using drugs. Anxiety vests work by applying gentle, constant pressure to a dog's or cat's torso, which provides comfort. 

Playing calming music can help desensitize and relax your pet, and I recommend the music from Lisa Spector from Dog Gone Calm. Below is a concert she offered in 2020 to help pets stay calm during the 4th of July.

Tip #8: Distract and redirect your pet's focus by using chew toys, playing games, and offering delicious treats as a reward for ignoring the booming explosions, if you can. However, don't be surprised if your food-motived hound refuses treats when fireworks are happening. When pets are stressed or scared, they often refuse food or treats.

Chewing reduces a dog's stress. Give your dog something fun and safe to chew on, like a frozen Kong filled with deliciousness like chicken or peanut butter, to keep them occupied

Playing with cats reduces their stress, so grab your cat's favorite toy and have fun playing with them.

Tip #9: Talk to your veterinarian before the start of the holiday week. If you've tried the above suggestions and your pet still suffers anxiety during fireworks, it may be time to discuss medication options to ease their fears and tension. The 4th of July and New Year's Holidays are the two times of year that I strongly suggest medicating your pet if they tend to meltdown, and it could save their lives.

Your Vet should be one of your best resources to help your pet through this potentially nightmarish holiday. Never give your pet any medication without consulting your veterinarian first, given the potentially severe side effects. While the use of drugs should be your last resort, it's a good option if your pet is like Kobe Bear.

If you choose to medicate your pet, make sure you give it to it sooner than later. Every 4th of July holiday,  I receive numerous calls from clients whose pets are frantic from the noise and lights, and some clients call whose pets have gone missing.

Many pets end up in the veterinarian's ER during the Independence Day holiday.

During the 4th of July holiday, large influxes of pets go to the Vet ER for ingesting inappropriate picnic and BBQ foods such as hot dogs and fatty meats. Fatty BBQ meat can cause pancreatitis, and even ingesting a corn cob can make your dog very sick. So it's better to avoid these foods to prevent gastric upset and a possible trip to the ER.

If you are having a party, your animal family should be protected from the noise and potential danger of eating the wrong foods. Pets also visit the ER because they burn their paws on hot pavement or become dehydrated and overheated from the mid-Summer heat.

Finally, you may want to set up a long-distance Reiki session to support your pets with calm, grounding, and nurturing energy. I'm available throughout the week if you need to communicate with your pets about what's happening around them or offer them Reiki.

The Animal Muse Family wishes you and your animal family a safe and fun 4th of July Holiday!


Unknown said…
External stimuli is often considered as one of the main reasons why our dogs run away from home. This happens more frequently during celebrations such as New Year or 4th of July. There are a lot of ways how to calm them down to significantly reduce agitation. You should check this article out if you’re facing the same problem: http://dogsaholic.com/training/keep-your-dog-from-running-away.html
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