How to keep your pets from being traumatized by those July 4 fireworks

WASHINGTON — Fireworks can traumatize pets but there are ways to help ease potential angst.

“The safest place for your pet on the Fourth of July is at home,” Humane Rescue Alliance spokesman Matt Williams said.

Some pet owners might have the misguided notion that keeping dogs with them during Fourth of July excursions will allow them to comfort the animals if they feel scared, he said.

“When you take them out to one of these parks where they’re doing fireworks and there’s tons of people … and it’s too hot, all of those things combine for a pretty miserable experience for dogs,” Williams said.

Creating a space at home where pets feel safe and comfortable might include bringing their beds into a laundry room, bathroom or someplace with no windows so they don’t see or hear fireworks. Favorite toys and snacks help, too.

“Keep your pets indoors. Keep the window shades pulled. Make sure they have some other noise like a television or radio,” Williams advised.

And one veterinarian, Dr. Katy Nelson, suggests that you don’t make a big deal about it.

“Pets are really great at picking up on our own anxiety levels. And if we’re nervous and stressed about banishing them into the quiet room, they’re going to get nervous and stressed, too,” she said. “If we make it a pleasant experience for them, it will definitely help to calm them rather than cause even more anxiety.”

Other ways to mitigate the fear: anti-anxiety garments like the Thundershirt or pheromone products.

Pets that have severe anxiety are candidates for anti-anxiety treatments. “It may be something as simple as an herbal supplement or it may be an actual anti-anxiety medication,” Nelson said. “But not a sedative. We don’t want to sedate our pets, because all that does is make them sleepy while they’re still being traumatized.”

Anti-anxiety medications do work, Nelson said, but she recommends that they try them before the noisy event, to ensure the dosage is enough without “completely flattening your pet.”

Also: If your pet is loose in the house, be vigilant when opening outside doors, because fireworks can turn animals into escape artists. “More than any other time really — this is when dogs take off,” Williams noted. “Make sure they’re wearing their ID tags.”

If you haven’t already, you also might consider having your pet microchipped.

WTOP’s Jack Pointer contributed to this report.

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