Monday, June 25, 2018

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 of the year 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 be 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. Kobe Bear, on the other hand, 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 it was awful watching my dog suffer.

One year, Kobe was so freaked out, 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 disturbing vibrations the fireworks created.

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. It was hard watching Kobe tremble and bark incessantly every time he heard a loud bang. 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 that they can be tired when their world starts to explode. A 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 freshwater. 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 it's fun to bring your dog to fairs, holiday celebrations, and fireworks shows, 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. Up until he saw the light, he was doing okay dealing with the noise. Then he melted down. It took a while before he was able to 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. 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 them 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. Many times, when pets are stressed or scared, they 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. 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 form of 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 do give it to your pet sooner than later.  Every 4th of July holiday,  I receive numerous calls from clients whose pets are frantic from the noise and lights. Some clients call whose pets have gone missing.

Many pets end up in the Veterinarian 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. Even ingesting a corn cob can make your dog very sick. So it's better to avoid these types of foods to prevent gastric upset and a possible trip to the ER.

If you are having a party, your animal family should keep away 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 dehydrate 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 going on around them or offer them Reiki.

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Should Your Pets Stay or Go On Vacation?

Have you shared your summer plans with your animal family?

Bodhi Packing for A Recent Vacay
If you're a pet parent making arrangements for your summer vacay, then you will need to decide whether it's best to bring your animal family with you or leave them at home.

It's amazing how much calmer you and your animal companions will feel when you include them in your decision-making process because you're not second-guessing what your animals may need or want.

Communicating telepathically with your pets will help you make important decisions about their care while keeping their perspective in mind. 

There are many things to keep in mind when you bring your pet on a trip, including what your pets might want to do on their vacation. My dog, Bodhi loves to go to the beach, while some dogs enjoy taking a hike in the woods; going to cafes and restaurants, or wine tasting with their humans.

It can make a world of difference when you elicit your animal family's viewpoints on what they'd like to do on their “summer vacation.” Knowing how your pet feels about your plans can help you avoid, for instance, hiring a pet sitter your animal dislikes or taking them to the beach when they'd prefer to stay with their grandparents.

If you decide to take your pets with you on your vacay, websites like Bring Fido are useful resources for dog-friendly hotels, locations and adventure options in the United States and abroad. These websites offer a variety of accommodations that include fun perks like "yappy hour," canine goody bags, dog poop bags or on-site doggie daycare.

Some pets, like my cats, Mona Marie and Elvis prefer to stay at home because change is hard for them. Plus they don't enjoy traveling. Bodhi, on the other hand, loves to go whenever he can,

Bodhi is clear he's not okay being left alone at night when he can't travel with me, and my cats need human companionship, so I hire a pet sitter to spend the night in the house. Also, I give them permission to have fun with their caregivers while I'm away.

If you don't have a neighbor, friend or relative to watch your pets, websites like can help you find a reliable pet sitter in your area. Your veterinarian may be an excellent resource to help you find a reliable pet care provider.

Before you finalize your trip, it's helpful to check in with your animal family to make sure they understand and approve of the plans you have chosen for them. 

Donna recently called me as she was finalizing her summer vacation plans to Virginia Beach. Donna inquired if her dog, Sadie wanted to go the beach or preferred staying at her human grandparents' home.

Sadie confessed that despite being a black Lab, the ocean scares her. Sadie then asked her Mom if she could stay with her grandparents where she was far from the sea and felt safe.

After her vacation, Donna shared that talking with Sadie reduced their stress and anxiety around their holiday. Donna explained she felt more relaxed knowing Sadie was happy and secure with her grandparents. Sadie said she had a good time with her grandparents

Rachael likes to check in with her adorable 14-year-old Pomeranian, Kiki before traveling for business or pleasure. With my assistance, Rachael tells Kiki about the pet hotel where she will be staying, so her little friend is well=prepared for the upcoming shifts her daily routine.

Companion animals want their humans to prepare them for changes in their daily routines especially upcoming travel plans. 

Susie contacts me every time she goes leaves her dog, even if it's for a day or two. She feels it's essential for her senior collie, Bettie is apprised of the upcoming changes in Bettie's routine. Susie finds it's beneficial that Bettie is okay with her pet sitter. Susie and Bettie find communicating with one another reassuring and helpful. When Susie leaves her collie, both dog and human have peace of mind. And Bettie feels validated because her voice was heard.

Going on vacation can be a challenge, especially when you have pets. In my experience, your animal family tends to be more relaxed and happier when you include them in your planning process. After all, the goal is to have a stress-free summer vacation free from worry about your animals.

I'd love to hear about your summer adventures with your animal family. Please leave your comments and stories here on my blog or by posting on my Facebook page.