I was truly devastated to see hundreds of posts on Facebook and other popular social networking sites regarding lost pets, the morning after all the festivities of the July fourth weekend. Pet parents were (and still are) frantically trying to locate beloved dogs and cats who were frightened by the loud noises associated with the fireworks and ran away. The same behavior happens in thunderstorms, because many pets are terrified of loud noises.
As the parent of my own three pets and the owner of a business in which we deal with pets who suffer anxiety issues every day, I can tell you that for an animal affected by loud noises, the sounds of fireworks and thunderstorms can be terrifying. Just like a small child, your pet has no control over his or her reaction to loud noises.
Signs induced by fear of loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms, etc. include shaking or trembling, excessive drooling, barking, howling, refusing to eat and trying to hide or get into/out of the house, fence, or other enclosure. Some animals may lose bladder or bowel control, or experience temporary diarrhea from prolonged stress.
When we went to visit clients’ homes to care for their pets on July fifth, there were some poor animals that were still hiding underneath beds and furniture because they were terrified of the noises that had occurred the evening before. They couldn’t be coaxed out, even with treats.
Years ago I rescued a boxer who had gone through a plate-glass window during a fourth of July celebration, resulting in severe lacerations to her feet and legs. I’ve seen torn fencing, foot pad injuries and broken teeth in animals who have tried to chew their way out of metal crates. I have a client who owns a large-breed dog who was out of town for a day. There was a thunderstorm in her absence, and she came back to a bedroom door that was chewed almost entirely in half – I saw this with my own eyes. Can you imagine how terrified and frantic an animal must be to want to escape that badly? Sadly, many pets get loose and are lost forever, which is another important reason why you should always have your pet microchipped.
Our furry kids, much like our children, do not have the ability to “rationalize” their fears. So “disciplining” your pet by yelling at him or striking him does not work, and will only make his fear worse. Would you hit your child for being scared? Me either.
Here are a few things you can do to help your pet during a storm or fireworks display:
Get him a Thundershirt. A Thundershirt is an actual jacket-type shirt that fits snugly around your dog, applying a gentle, constant pressure that has been proven to have a dramatic calming effect on most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited. Thundershirt is recommended by thousands of veterinarians and dog trainers.
Keep pets home. It may be tempting to bring along your dog so everyone can enjoy the fun of events like Fourth
of July celebrations, but the loud noises aren’t usually fun for pets.
Keep pets indoors if possible. Close blinds and turn on the TV or radio, making the volume loud enough to drown out the noise outside.
Provide a safe “escape” place. Many times, pets will seek out a small, den-like place (like underneath your bed, furniture or in a crate) if they are fearful or stressed. If you do not already have a crate or similar place that your pet can call his own, create a safe place and get your pet familiar with it. I have found that a blanket thrown over the crate can be very calming as well.
Use a leash or carrier. If you must be outside with your pet, keep him on a leash or in a carrier at all times. If he is on a leash, make sure he cannot slip out of his collar.
Practice fire safety. Keep your pets away from matches, lighter fuel, open fires and fireworks – especially ones that are lit on the ground. Animals may try to sniff (or eat) fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch fire if it gets too close to the fireworks.
Take your pet for a potty-break first. Make sure that he has time to relieve himself before the fireworks start. Some animals are too frightened to go once a thunderstorm or fireworks begin, and this may lead to accidents in the house.
Make sure your pet’s ID is current. I can’t shout this from the rooftops loud enough! Make sure that your pet has been microchipped, or at least has identification tags on him that contain your current contact information, in case he gets away. This will help the local authorities (who are quite busy this time of year handling frightened runaways).
I sincerely hope that everyone who may have lost their pet due to fireworks or storms is reunited with them safely. If not, please feel free to post a picture of your furry kid along with your contact information on our Facebook wall at www.facebook.com/PawsPetCareAtHome.com, for all our friends to be able to see and share.