If you are a long-time pet owner then you know how stressful the Fourth of July can be for you and your pet. In the days leading up to the fourth, you may have excited neighbors setting off small fireworks. If you love to host a cookout, then the extra people wandering around can cause tension, and unattended plates can lead to tummy troubles later; not to mention the potential for chewing on glow bracelets, exposure to insect repellent, and the large fireworks displays on the big day itself. All this can lead to confusion and anxiety for both you and your pet.
2020 was a little bit different and may have been calmer overall, but changes from the pandemic, like people working from home, fear for our health and jobs, and general stress that pets can sense, led to many more pets developing anxiety. We’re coming off of an anxious year, but with things slowly shifting towards a “new normal”, our pets are going through stressful changes again. With anxiety already running high, how can we help them stay calm during a time of year that already makes them anxious?
If you anticipate higher anxiety levels now, you can stop them before they become a problem, and make the Fourth a safe, and peaceful, time for you and your pet.
Fourth of July Pet Safety Tips
Dealing With Fireworks
Let’s start with the big one first. Unless they have been trained to stay calm around loud bangs (like a hunting dog might) fireworks can be stressful for your pet. Your pet’s hearing is so good that they can even be affected by fireworks that are miles away.
The last thing you want is for your pet to run away. When the fireworks start, make sure you keep them inside. This will work even better if they have a place to go. Cats often find a space to squeeze themselves into, but if possible, make your cat a den. This can be as simple as putting a basket with a blanket under your coffee table. Make your dog a bed in a bedroom, or if you have a dog that is crate trained, keep them in their crate. You can try to drown out the fireworks by putting on music that you know keeps your dog calm or by turning on the tv to drown out the noise. This will help them feel more secure and hopefully keep their anxiety at a minimum.
As an additional calming measure, you can give them calming chews. Consult your veterinarian before giving your dogs or cats any supplements, but these are generally safe and can be purchased over the counter. If you have a pet with extreme anxiety, you may need to consult their vet about a prescription medication.
Make sure your pet is wearing their tags, and that if they are microchipped, the information is up to date. If the worst-case scenario happens, and your pet becomes overwhelmed with anxiety and runs away, they will have a better chance of making it home to you!
Fourth of July Gatherings
You may have a dog or cat that loves to socialize. Even if they love people, the general atmosphere at Fourth of July gatherings can be overwhelming. The obvious answer is to leave your pets at home. If this is not possible, or if you’re hosting at your home, keep a few things in mind.
If you haven’t had other people around for a while, start re-socializing your dog before an event. Even if they're usually enthusiastic about new people, they may have forgotten how to interact correctly. This is why you should also make sure their training is still sharp. Obeying commands to “sit, “stay”, or “down” will remind them of what they need to do and make social situations less confusing and safer for everyone.
Have a family member or friend designated to keep an eye on your pet. That way, if your pet seems to be getting overwhelmed or overstimulated, you can remove them from the situation. Take them inside the house and let them go into a quiet area. If you are at a friend’s house, make arrangements to bring your dog’s crate so they can get away from the crowd.
Anxiety isn’t the only problem with gatherings. Stomach issues can also ruin a gathering. Keep an eye on your pet. You can’t control what other people do, but you can try to keep bottles of alcohol and soft drinks out of reach and keep your dog or cat from getting into plates left unattended.
This is the time of year when everyone heads for cabins on the lake. What better place to vacation with your dog! If you’re planning a lakeside getaway or renting a vacation home, the last thing you want to do is spend all that time indoors. If you bring your dog, they can't accompany you everywhere you go. In the past year, our pets have gotten used to having us around all the time. This has caused many dogs to develop separation anxiety, you can learn more about the signs here.
You don’t want your pet to ruin a stranger’s Airbnb. In addition to addressing the issue head-on, you can engage your dog in activities that will keep your dog too mentally engaged to become anxious and destructive. Make sure they get plenty of physical and mental exercise before you’re planning to leave them alone. Head out on a walk or hike, or check out these indoor activities that can keep any dog entertained and engaged. Remember, it’s your job to set your pet up for success!
Everyone loves a parade. If you’re a fan of putting your pet in parades, remember that having a year off may have changed things for your pet. Like any large gathering, you will need to work on re-socializing your dog. Make sure they still know how to mind their manners and that they can follow commands even with distractions around.
Remember not to put glow bracelets or necklaces on your pet, since they can chew them off. The contents are non-toxic but can still cause drooling, irritation, and upset tummy or even, a blockage from the plastic.
With the state of things, everyone's a little more anxious right now. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our summer. Work with your pet to keep them happy and anxiety at an all time low. That way, you both can enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July!