With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, many dog owners are bracing for a holiday celebration that only amounts to stress for their beloved pets.
While grill-outs, parades and fireworks are all part of a well-rounded Independence Day for many Americans, those fireworks can be a source of anxiety and trauma for the canine members of your family.
Unfortunately, fear of fireworks is common among dogs. If you’ve ever sat with your dog during fireworks, you’ve probably seen them whimper, tremble, yelp, hide, or exhibit other unusual behaviors for the duration of the explosions.
While you’re unlikely to cure your dog of this fear, there are some things you can do to ease their suffering whenever fireworks are being lit.
Why are dogs scared of fireworks?
Fireworks are scary for dogs because of the loudness of the bang—along with other sensory stimulants such as bright lights and the smell of burning explosives—is unfamiliar and unsettling, increasing your dogs’ anxiety. Because the explosions are so loud, dogs are usually unable to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. This inability to locate the explosions creates a sense of fear, since dogs are unable to identify, monitor, or respond to the new sound stimulus in their environment.
It’s important to remember that each dog’s reaction to fireworks can be different. While some dogs start to tremble and hide when fireworks start, others may not be overwhelmed by the loud noises. Others may appear calm even if they’re experiencing fear and anxiety. It’s important to monitor your dog closely to see whether fireworks are causing any changes in behavior—which can be a sign that they’re afraid.
Do fireworks hurt dogs’ ears?
A dog’s hearing is far more powerful than humans. The ability to detect much quieter sounds means their ears are much more sensitive to noise. It’s widely accepted that fireworks and other loud noises do register as painful for many dogs.
While loud noises may not cause hearing damage for your dog—unless they’re in close proximity to loud fireworks explosions—the sensation of pain can increase your dogs’ fear and anxiety around fireworks, turning these festivities into an even more unpleasant sensory experience.
My dog is scared of fireworks—what can I do?
As a dog owner, there are several things you can do to improve the comfort of your pet and minimize the ill-effects they suffer from fireworks. Here are some suggestions on how to calm dogs from fireworks:
- Get your dog some exercise prior to the start of fireworks. Exercise will help your dog burn off nervous energy that can increase stress and anxiety. Go for a long walk or run earlier in the day.
- Put your dog in a safe, secure space. A bedroom, basement, or other secure room is often the best place to put your dog. Ideally, this space will be familiar to them and offer comforts they’re accustomed to, such as a favorite napping spot, favorite blankets, or other items. Make sure they have food and water, and securely close all doors and windows to stop the dog from trying to run away—which some dogs will attempt out of fear.
- Play ambient noise to reduce the sound of fireworks. Noise machines can help drown out the sound of fireworks, or at least make them less distinct and stressful for your dog. You might also try playing music to calm dogs during fireworks—or even leave the TV on in the room where they’re staying.
- Snuggle and comfort your dog while in distress. When you notice a dog scared of fireworks that is shaking or having other strong reactions, consider sticking close to them, petting them and offering other physical comfort to put their fears at ease.
- Provide distractions to keep your dog busy. Favorite toys, new dog treats and other activities can pull your dog’s attention away from fireworks, easing their stress.
- Consider bypassing fireworks and getting away from the action. If your dog’s reaction is severe, you might plan on staying away from fireworks festivities, or even taking a trip out of town to spare your dog the stress of Fourth of July weekend.
- Ask your veterinarian about possible medications to administer during fireworks. Your vet may be able to provide you medications that partially alleviate stress and anxiety from loud fireworks.
What can I give my dog for fireworks anxiety?
While there are over-the-counter supplements designed to reduce anxiety in dogs, your vet may also decide that a prescription medication is the best course of treatment. This will depend on several different factors, including your dog’s health, existing medication use, and severity of the dog’s reaction to fireworks, among other factors.
For your dog’s safety, it’s recommended that you consult with a local vet before giving your dog any supplements or medications. Work with your vet to determine the best treatment option for your dog’s specific needs.
Remember: while fireworks are usually fun and games, they can be a source of severe stress and anxiety for your dog. By taking your dog’s needs into consideration when it comes to fireworks, you can at least help manage their discomfort while still finding time to enjoy the fireworks displays yourself.