Looking After Your Pets During Fireworks

CatHiding

Eighty percent of pet owners have owned a pet afraid of fireworks. Do you constantly worry about your pets during firework displays close to your home? Do you fear you may come home to find that your pets are unhappy or, even worse, ill because of the extremely loud noises? If you can’t ask for quieter fireworks, you will have to do the best you can to comfort your pet. Here are the ways our veterinarians at Lange Animal Clinic recommend to keep your pet safe and cared for during fireworks.

  1. Know when fireworks will be happening and how they’ll impact your home. Contact your local municipality to find out when your area is likely to have fireworks. Mark the dates on a calendar so that you can keep track of when to ensure your pets are cared for. If you know or suspect that the fireworks will be heard at your house, take the precautions outlined in the following steps.
  • Check that your pets’ ID tags and microchips are in date; mark the calendar when renewal payments are due and be sure to make the payments. If your pet does go running off during fireworks events, it’s much easier to be able to identify its ownership with these features.
  • Fireworks upset pets as a result of the noise, smell of sulfur, and flashing lights.
  1. Prepare your dog for dealing with noise by exposing your pet to other sounds. Desensitization of noises helps to prevent a phobia of loud noises. Play a cd at a volume suitable that has noises or find ways to make different noises well before the firework season, or after the event.
  1. Prepare the house. The house becomes your pets’ safety zone, so it’s important to prepare it properly.
  • Keep some lights on. Keeping a light on will calm your pet and make him feel more secure, rather than being scared in a dark room.
  • Dampen the noise. Close the curtains in the room and, if your animal is a caged one, cover up the cage in a thick blanket, but make sure it is breathable so your animal doesn’t suffocate. This will also help to stop the flashes of light affecting your pet.
  • Plan to use familiar sounds to drown out the noise of the fireworks. Music from a stereo or turning on the TV are likely familiar sounds that can sooth your pet. Just make sure not to play these sounds ridiculously loud as they can become bothersome themselves.
  1. Prepare the room. Select a suitable room where you will contain the pets for the duration of the fireworks. An inner room that is least impacted by the noise is ideal. It should be a room that you can close off to prevent your pet from running about the house and injuring itself, wrecking furniture, etc. If you have more than one pet, be sure they don’t mind being confined in the same room, or select several rooms for different pets. For example, dogs and cats will usually appreciate being kept separate.
  • Make the room cozy. Put down familiar, clean bedding somewhere pleasant such as under a table, on or behind a chair, etc. Add some familiar chew toys, scratch pads, balls, etc., to keep your pets amused and distracted.
  • Ensure that the room temperature is pleasant; warm if it’s cold weather, or cool if it’s hot weather.
  • Consider whether sound might be soothing. If your pet is used to music, turn some on at normal volume. Also, the sound of rainwater is very soothing to pets.
  • Use lavender. This is optional, but you might like to use lavender scented items to help calm your pet. Use a spray or gently bruise the leaves and flowers of some fresh plants. Just make sure that it’s out of reach of your pet. Using heated scent oils or incense is not recommended as a frantic pet can knock them over and start a fire or injure themselves.
  • Add a litter tray for cats.
  • Remove any sharp items from the room in case your pet starts jumping or running around.
  1. Prepare yourself. In the desire to ease our pet’s pain, sometimes we can transfer some of our anxiety and upset to the pet. If you’ve prepared properly in advance, there is no need to feel upset and worried as you can be reassured about the safety of your pet.
  • Realize that the startled and frantic reactions of your pet are often the principal source of your own upset. Being ready for their reactions can help to keep you calm as well.
  1. Confine your pet. Half an hour to an hour before the fireworks are due to be set off, place your pet into the chosen room. If you’re concerned about not being able to locate your pet (for example, cats aren’t always easy to find), consider finding your pet several hours earlier. Mealtime is a good time to round up every pet, provided it falls before the fireworks are set off. If your dog needs a walk, be sure to walk her before confining her.
  • Even if your pet is caged, place it into the secure and comfortable room you’ve selected.
  1. Provide food and hydration. Be sure to leave sufficient water and food for your pet in the confinement space. Many pets will be uneasy, or even frantic. If your pet has access to water, it will help calm him, and food supplied in your pet’s regular portion will make him feel like it’s a normal day.
  1. Keep an eye on your pet, and if possible, stay with her. Comfort her and talk to her. Be friendly but don’t fuss over her too much; this can increase her anxiety if she picks up on yours and can reward and encourage fearful behavior. If it’s not possible to stay with her, (perhaps because you’re out or busy (you may be at the firework display), don’t worry – the previous steps should ensure that your pet has been adequately cared for.
  • Allow your pet to hide somewhere in the room if wished. It’s your pet’s way of coping (a “bolthole”) and dragging them out of a safe spot can increase their anxiety levels. Don’t fuss over her too much.
  1. Check on your pet after the fireworks. Reassure him and remove the protection (blankets, etc.) as long as you’re sure that the loud fireworks are over. Let him have free run of the house to see how he behaves before considering letting him return outside (it might be best to wait until morning, if possible). Check for signs of stress in your pet.
  • For cats, signs of stress include running away, soiling the house, hiding away and refusing to eat.
  • For dogs, signs of stress include barking a lot, running away, soiling the house, hiding and cowering, clinging to owners, whimpering, trembling and shaking, pacing and panting, and refusing to eat.
  • If your pet is stressed, keep him indoors overnight. Keep a litter tray somewhere in the house, or walk a dog after the fireworks but don’t let him off his harness and be sure to stay with him the whole time.
  1. Do a yard sweep before letting your pets back outside. Collect any sparklers, firecrackers, etc., as well as party items and broken objects. This will prevent your pet from being injured by unfamiliar objects.

For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.

Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the utmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at www.langeanimal.com.  

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Thunderstorms and Easing Your Pets’ Fear

tstorm

It is still relevantly unknown as to why some pets become afraid of noises such as thunderstorms.  This is a common problem in dogs, but less so in cats. The fear can soon become a phobia for a pet causing irrational fear response(s) and behavior issues. In the case of thunderstorms, pets may be fearful of storm-associated events such as a change in barometric pressure, lightning, electrostatic disturbances, and even smells associated with the storms. Noise phobias can include fear of thunder and severe gusts of wind knocking down larger outdoor items.

Some studies suggest that certain breeds of dogs have an above average risk of developing noise phobias. These include such breeds as: Collies, German Shepherds, Beagles, and Basset Hounds. A noise phobia may be traced to a particular bad experience of a noise, but often, no triggering event can be ascertained. In most cases, the fear of noises and storms can progressively worsen. Over time, a pet may become fearful of similar sounds or events associated with the noise.

Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians in Pekin, IL believe that an owner’s attitude can influence the severity of the fear. For instance, if owners themselves are nervous during storms, noise phobias in their pets may occur more often or become more severe. Similarly, if the owner attempts to overly comfort the animal, the animal interprets it as confirming there really is something to be afraid of. The over petting or comforting is really positive reinforcement of an undesirable behavior.

Signs or behaviors to watch for during Thunderstorms

Dogs or cats may display different signs of noise phobias which may include one or more of the following:

  • Hiding (most common sign in cats)
  • Urinating
  • Defecating
  • Chewing
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Trying to escape (digging, jumping through windows or going through walls, running away)
  • Drooling
  • Seeking the owner
  • Expressing anal glands
  • Not eating
  • Not listening to commands
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Vocalizing (barking or meowing)

Consult with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian to help you address any animal behavior problems.  We will assist you in developing the appropriate treatment plan for your pet.

How do you treat noise phobia?

There are no guarantees that a noise phobia can be eliminated completely, but in most cases the fear can be effectively managed. The type of treatment and success levels depend on several factors including the severity of the phobia, how long your pet has had to deal with it, how often it is occurring, seasonality, and the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to correcting the behavior.

The first thing to remember is that you should refrain from giving excessive attention or punishment for fearful behavior. Continuous petting or coddling may be perceived by the pet as a reward for the fearful response. In the event of overcompensating comfort a dog during a storm, for example, it may signal to the pet that the storm really is something he should be afraid of. Similarly, the pet should not be punished for showing fear. This will only increase his anxiety level. Instead, emit confidence, and provide your dog attention in the form of playing, grooming, or other activities he or she enjoys.

The following are some techniques to use to help change the phobia of thunderstorms:

Change the surroundings
By changing the surroundings of the animal during the storm or noise, the anxiety level can be reduced. Changing the pet’s surroundings may reduce the volume level of the sound or help make the pet less aware of it.  “White noise,” such as running a fan or air conditioner may aid in blocking out some of the fear-producing noise. Playing a TV or radio can have a similar effect. Allowing the pet access to the basement or a room without outside walls or windows may decrease the noise level

Exercise your pet (and yourself too!)
The pet should receive consistent exercise on a daily basis, and more so on a day when the thunderous noise occur during storms. The exercise will help to wear down your animal, both mentally and physically, and may reduce the pet’s responsive to the noise. In addition, exercise has the effect of increasing natural serotonin levels, which can act as a sedative.

Create a safety zone for your pet
Pets may feel more comfortable and relaxed in a small space such as a crate or a small room like a bathroom (run the fan and leave the lights on). Some pets seek out the safety of the bathtub or shower during a storm. (Some have hypothesized that a pet may feel less static electricity if on tile or porcelain.) If the pet is comfortable in a crate, the crate can be covered with a blanket to add to the feeling of security. The door to the crate should be left open and the pet should not be confined to the crate, which could dramatically increase the stress level.

Maintain calm and composure
Pets can very easily pickup on the mental state of their owners. If you too are nervous because of the storm- this will only add to the dog or cat’s fear. Your pet will look to you for direction, so keep an “upbeat” and “in charge” attitude.

Maintain good health and nutrition
Health problems may increase the stress level of pets, and increase their anxiety. For instance, a dog in pain because of hip dysplasia may be more irritable and prone to other behavior changes. Diets too high in protein have been linked to some behavioral problems. Consult one of the Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians if you would like advice about changing your pet’s diet.

Special techniques can be used to help change the animal’s response to the noise.  We can offer guidance and suggestions to help.  Second level alternatives may include anti-anxiety medications but we strongly encourage following the above techniques first to identify whether or not success can be achieved using those methods before relying on medications.


For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.

Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the utmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at www.langeanimal.com.  

About Us 
Our Services
Setup an Appointment