Fireworks & Your Pets’ Safety

Unless they just let their animals roam, most people don’t expect to lose their pets.  So any lost-pet posters you see and any pets you see running loose who clearly have a family, belong to someone who didn’t think their pet would get lost—meaning those pets belong to someone like you and me, someone who thought their pets were safe & protected.  Most of us can probably do more to protect our animals, but this is especially important around holidays with fireworks.

The days following the 4th of July in the U.S. are very busy for animal shelters and tons of lost posters go up for cats and dogs.  Some shelters even stay open for holiday so people can retrieve their pets that escape.

Most cats seem to respond to fireworks by hiding, but they are still at risk for bolting in a panic.  Dogs are also at great risk of escaping, but they may also respond to their fear with destruction or even aggression.

If your pet panics and runs away, this very thorough article has excellent advice, including putting out items scented strongly with your smells and your pet’s like your dirty clothes and your pets bedding or your cat’s litterbox.  Here are more good tips from a pet detective on finding your lost pet. Advice on how to make the most effective posters for your lost pet.  Post lost notices on Craigslist, with newspapers, and on your neighborhood blogs. (Unfortunately, Petfinder no longer has a section for people to post notices of their lost pets.)  Be sure to watch out for scams.

The first step is to keep your pets safe:

  1. don’t take your dog to fireworks shows
  2. keep your pets inside, DO NOT leave them outside, even if you fear they may damage your home
  3. don’t leave your pets alone
  4. if you have to leave them alone, do not leave them where they can destroy things and possibly escape or harm themselves
  5. DO NOT leave them chain or tied anywhere—it can lead to strangulation if you dog panics
  6. make sure your cats & dogs have on their collar & tags, are micro-chipped & that their info. is current
  7. close all exterior doors, windows, and pet doors
  8. take your dog on a long walk early in the day to help expend some energy
  9. if you have a sensitive dog, keep her on a leash at all times while she’s outside for walks or to potty, even if you’re not near a fireworks show and even if you’re in your yard or neighborhood—panicked dogs can jump over tall fences and burst through gates they normally could not get over or through
  10. if fireworks go off unexpectedly and your dog panics, get her to any enclosed space
  11. consider feeding your dog well before evening—food can help make him sleepy
  12. don’t leave matches/fireworks lying around—it could lead to heavy metal poisoning
  13. don’t set off fireworks with dog around—it could lead to burns and serious injury
  14. don’t leave your dog in a car
  15. if your dog is already crate trained she may feel safest in her crate
  16. allow your pets access to the inner-most room of your house, provide blankets to burrow under, etc.
  17. play music or the radio
  18. remember a terrified cat or dog can behave out of character, don’t push their limits

Comforting Doesn’t Reinforce Fear In Your Dog

I’ve tried all sorts of things to reassure Saffron during thunder or fireworks even though I’d heard doing so could increase her fear. Good news—you can’t reinforce fear by petting or comforting your dog. The bad news is comforting your dog may not lessen her fear.  Tests showed cortisol levels didn’t drop when dogs were petted by their owners during thunder storms.  The company of other dogs appears to be the most important things in lowering cortisol levels.  However, in another study, oxytocin, prolactin and beta-endorphin levels did increase when people interacted with their dogs.  And since these substances are connected with a sense of well-being and social connection, you may still be helping your dog by comforting her.

I’ve tried ignoring what’s going on, but not completely ignoring Saffron.  I’ve tried calming signals. I swear her eyes got rounder and her reaction was like, “Oh no!  She has no idea we’re in danger—she’s not going to be ANY help!!”  And I’ve tried distracting her. Nothing really seemed to work.   What does seem to work best for us, is if Saffron finds a place to sit near me and I keep contact with her with my leg or hand, depending on where she is.  One of the phrases we use with Saffron to try to communicate that whatever startled her isn’t dangerous is “Wow, that was noisy.”  We say it in a happy, kind of chuckling voice so she at least hears we aren’t worried by it.  It may take a while, but she eventually calms enough to stop panting, tremoring, vocalizing, and drooling.

July 4th Fireworks & Your Pets

The Humane Society of the U.S. has great advice on how to keep your pets safe July 4th.

The days after the Fourth of July are the busiest for shelters as they’re flooded with animals who ran away because of fireworks. I’ve noticed a rash of lost posters appears every year in the week following the holiday. For every lost poster, there is a person who never thought it would happen to them. Don’t let it be you and your pet.

Remember to plan for your pets when you’re making your own plans for the 4th of July.

  • make sure they have i.d.—tags & a microchip
  • don’t take your dog to fireworks displays
  • keep cats inside
  • keep dogs inside, a dog that has never jumped a fence or tunneled under one can do it in a panic
  • if you know your pet is terrified of fireworks, consult your vet ahead of time about herbal anti-anxiety remedies or medication
  • consider trying a pheromone dispenser or an Anxiety Wrap
  • if your fireworks go off at an unexpected time and your dog panics, get her into an enclosed space whether it’s your house or your car (don’t leave her in an unairconditioned car!)

If your pet panics and runs away, this very thorough article has excellent advice, including putting out items scented strongly with your smells and your pet’s like your dirty clothes and your pets bedding or your cat’s litterbox. Post on And watch out for scams.