More pets are reported missing the first week of July than any other time of year. While most large Fourth of July celebrations have been canceled this year due to COVID-19, many people are seeing a spike in “backyard” fireworks, which can be just as scary for your pet.
Fireworks and the loud, unpredictable booms they bring can cause sheer terror for pets. Because they usually happen at night and while many people are either out of the house or hosting guests, backyard fireworks create a perfect scenario for a runaway pet. Our Veterinary Behaviorist Dr. Meghan Herron has some important tips to help prevent your pet from getting lost this week.
Before the Festivities
- Double-check that your dog’s collar fits securely and has a valid license and tags with your phone number.
- If you have a fenced yard, check for weak spots, holes, potential climbing points, broken latches, and other spaces your dog could squeeze through. that your pup could use to escape.
- Make sure your dog’s microchip is up to date with your contact information and their collar has a valid dog license (especially if they don’t have a microchip). By law dogs with valid licenses that are picked up as a stray must be held by shelters in Ohio for two weeks. In most counties, stray dogs without a valid tag are eligible for adoption or can be euthanized if the shelter is overcrowded after three days.
- For the next week or two, bring your pet indoors after dusk when there’s a greater chance for unexpected fireworks.
- When outdoors, always walk your dog on a leash with a well-fitted collar, harness, or martingale collar. Even smaller bottle rockets, poppers, or bang snaps can make a dog spook and run.
Help Them Cope
- When you do hear a boom, put your dog in a safe room inside away from the noise, like an interior bathroom, walk-in closet, laundry room, or basement. Keep your doors and windows closed. If you’re planning to be outside, set up a monitor or surveillance camera to keep tabs on your pup.
- Use white noise, like a sound machine, box fan, or overhead fan. You can even play some classical music on your phone, tablet, or radio to provide additional stress relief.
- Distract your dog with a food-dispensing puzzle toy.
- Utilize calming pheromone products, such as Adaptil, to provide extra comfort and security.
- For dogs that want to be touched or pressed up against something when distressed, consider a calming pressure wrap, such as a Thundershirt or Anxiety Wrap. Be sure to try it on your dog ahead of time. These tools aren’t a good match for every dog, so ask the retailer about their return policy when you purchase.
- If you have guests over, remind them to keep doors and gates closed to prevent an escape.
- If your pet has a history of fear or panic with loud noises, talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications. There are several options that work quickly and can be given just a few hours before fireworks begin.
Gigi’s Journey with Noise Phobia
For our co-founder Tina Skestos and our organization’s namesake, Gigi, managing the sudden noises the Fourth of July brings has become a bit of a tradition.
“It all started when she was about a year old. We were taking our evening walk a few days before the Fourth of July when all of a sudden… BANG! From out of nowhere came huge explosions. Our neighbors were celebrating by letting off their own fireworks just after dusk as we were passing their home. I don’t think I’d ever seen sheer terror on a dog’s face before that evening. Immediately, her ears went back, her eyes darted back and forth, and she bolted toward our house. I struggled to maintain control as her 100 pounds nearly dragged me down the block, and we made it back home in record time. Gigi headed straight to the basement. She paced, panted, and whimpered as if searching for safety. Finally, after several minutes in distress, she collapsed from exhaustion and settled down.
Since that day without fail, Gigi lets us know when a storm is coming or fireworks are starting. She finds and paws me, visibly shaking, until she has my full attention. Then we head to her “bunker” in our finished basement where she quickly settles in and sleeps out the noise.
I’ve just learned over the past nine years that no matter what time of day or night, when Gigi lets me know she’s worried our only hope is getting down to her bunker as quickly as possible. And, I’ll continue to do that for her as long as she needs me to!”
From our Gigi’s family to yours, we wish you and your pets a safe Fourth of July weekend!
Dr. Meghan Herron is a board-certified Veterinary Behaviorist and is Improving the lives of shelter dogs™ by serving as Gigi’s Senior Director of Behavioral Medicine Education, Research and Outreach. As a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB), she is one of 70 veterinarians in the country, and one of only a few in the animal welfare world, with this unique specialization in both the medical and behavioral care for animals.