At a glance:
- Fireworks can be extremely stressful for animals.
- Keep your pet indoors where they’ll be safe.
- Prepare for the Fourth of July in advance.
- Play a recording of fireworks while giving your pet treats to get them accustomed to the sounds.
- Create a safe haven room where your pet will have limited exposure to the sights and sounds of fireworks.
- Ask your vet if your pet suffers from severe noise phobia
For more helpful pet-parent tips, visit our behavior library.
The Fourth of July holiday is right around the corner, and while your pet may enjoy all the extra food and attention they receive during summer gatherings — the evening’s fireworks display is likely a different story.
Nearly half of all dogs experience noise aversion or noise phobias, which are triggered by booming fireworks. Symptoms of noise phobia are similar to a panic attack, including:
- Vocalization, barking, and whining
- Excessively seeking attention
- Cowering or shaking
- Lip licking and yawning
- Fleeing or seeking a hiding place — more pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.
These unpleasant symptoms can be extremely distressing for your pet and are hard to watch as a loving pet parent. Keep your pet safe and calm with these tips.
1. Help your pet become accustomed to the sounds of fireworks by playing recordings before the big day
Sound therapy can be incredibly effective in reducing the negative association animals have with certain sounds. Find a recording of the sound that frightens your pet (like fireworks, construction, or thunderstorms) and start playing it quietly while they’re calm and relaxed. Gradually turn up the volume. While the sound is playing, engage in fun, positive activities like giving them treats or playing with toys. This will help to slowly build a positive association with the sound.
2. Minimize your pet’s exposure to fireworks by creating a “safe haven”
Because more pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, AHS strongly recommends keeping all pets indoors during firework displays. Resist the urge to bring your pet to your Independence Day activities and keep them safe in your home.
If your pet is sensitive to loud noises, choose an interior room your pet is familiar with to set up home base for the night. This room should be away from windows, if possible. Otherwise, draw the blinds or shut the curtains and leave the lights on to reduce the visual stimulation of fireworks. Then add white noise, music, or a fan to help muffle the noise outside. Make the room feel cozy and den-like with plenty of soft bedding and treats, or a food-stuffed toy.
- Pro-tip: Start preparing for the Fourth of July in advance. Feed, play, or even have your pet sleep in their safe room for a few days or weeks leading up the main event.
There are many natural remedies (also known as nutraceuticals) and retail products that claim to help reduce anxiety on the market. Compression shirts may help calm some dogs by providing soothing pressure, similar to swaddling a baby. Diffusers that emit canine or feline pheromones to reduce stress are also popular. These items may play a role in your pet’s safe haven room, but remember their success isn’t proven.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet for help
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, nothing you do can help a shy and fearful pet. If you know your pet gets severely distressed by noise or other stimulants, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety prescription medication that has been proven to help.
4. Use proper pet identification and be prepared all summer long
Unfortunately, for scared pets, fireworks (and other loud noises) aren’t isolated to the Fourth of July. It’s important to be prepared for potential noise triggers all season long.
Before taking off for a summer stroll or attending a gathering, double check your pet’s collar. Although it may seem tight, you should only be able to fit one or two fingers snuggly under your pet’s collar (the same goes for harnesses and gentle leaders). This will prevent them from slipping out of their collar and getting away from you if they’re startled by a noise.
- Pro tip: Attach your dog’s leash to both his gentle leader and his collar for two-step protection.
Pack plenty of treats and be ready to use them! Not only can treats help to keep your pet’s eye on the prize amidst various summer distractions, an appealing snack can take their mind off of their fear and help lure them home safely if needed.
Make sure your pet is wearing ID tags with your phone number and address. If your pet is microchipped, ensure that your microchip is registered and the contact information is current. If your pet does get away from you, the finders will only be able to return them with the correct contact information. To report a lost or found pet, create a post on Petco Love Lost — a free, online tool that utilizes facial recognition technology to scan lost and found pet listings nationwide. Be sure to check out our Stray Pets Bulletin Board, too.
As amazing as summer can be, it brings its own set of challenges for pet owners. Together with AHS experts, you can create a stress-free summer for both you and your furry friend.