Fireworks can scare dogs. Vets explain why and how to calm your pet’s anxiety.

How to keep pets safe during the Fourth of July

How to keep pets safe during the Fourth of July


While many Americans look up in awe and enjoy the booming fireworks on the Fourth of July, it can be a difficult time for dog owners and a stressful time for those pets, who may feel scared or anxious because of the fireworks and need help to calm down.

The loud fireworks can easily scare pets. Data show that nearly one-in-five lost pets goes missing after being scared by loud noises, such as fireworks, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Staycee Dains with Los Angeles Animal Services told CBS Los Angeles she’s concerned about shelters being inundated with runaway pets after the Fourth of July,

Veterinarians and animal care experts explain why fireworks may scare your pet, what you can do to prepare them for the patriotic day and how to keep them calm during firework displays.

Preparing for the Fourth of July fireworks displays

Veterinarians across the U.S., along with the ASPCA, Rover, the American Kennel Club, Purina and PetMD, have shared advice for preparing pets for Fourth of July. 

Make sure animals have ID tags or registered microchips with your current contact information in case they run away.

Before the holiday, it can be helpful to get pets used to the types of noises they may encounter. Pet owners can play firework noises at low levels for brief periods of time while feeding treats to pets, and repeat that process over time. The volume of the fireworks noise can be gradually turned up during training sessions as your pet grows more comfortable. 

Owners can also purchase earmuffs made specially for dogs ahead of the holiday. Those are also best when they’re gradually introduced ahead of fireworks. 

There are also anti-anxiety medications available for pets, but Dr. Carly Fox, with the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York City, told CBS New York that they should be reserved for extreme cases. Fox suggests contacting a veterinarian ahead of the holiday and trying out any medication before the Fourth of July.  

“It’s really helpful because it gives you a sense of how sedate your pet’s going to be,” Fox said. “You don’t want your pet overly sedate or under sedate on the day where you actually need the medication to work.”

What to know about pets and 4th of July fireworks


On the day of the holiday, experts also suggest tiring your pet out before the fireworks display starts.

Tips for protecting animals during fireworks displays

While there are techniques to get ready, there are also a slew of tips to keep pets calm as fireworks go off. Veterinarians say pets should be kept inside during fireworks displays, with curtains and blinds closed. They advise not leaving a scared dog home alone during fireworks.

Owners can try distracting a pet with high-value treats. Putting the treats into puzzle toys can give your pet something to focus on other than fireworks. 

Calming music or white noise can also provide a distraction. 

A pet may seek out the safety of a crate as fireworks go off.  If your pet is crate trained or sleeps in a specific room, keep the door to it open. If the noise makes them panic, they could run and injure themselves on a closed door.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said if you are taking a dog outside, you should be sure to keep them on a leash — even in a fenced-in area — because they might run due to an unexpected noise. 

Horses and livestock should be kept safely fenced in or in their barns, Michigan officials said. 

After fireworks displays end, check your yard for any debris from fireworks before allowing pets outside.

Why do fireworks affect animals?

Animals have much better sense of hearing than humans, veterinarian Dr. Ruth MacPete told CBS Los Angeles. 

“A lot of pets are downright terrified by all the loud noises and flashes of light,” she said.

Booming sounds can be trigger dogs’ fight-or-flight response, according to Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies. The unpredictable nature of the noises can also scare dogs, according to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

“As humans, we understand and expect the annual tradition of fireworks, particularly around the 4th of July, but this concept is foreign to our dogs, and many are genuinely frightened if they are suddenly exposed to the loud sounds and scary sights associated with fireworks,” Dr. Sandra Mitchell, a veterinarian at Animal Medical Associates in Saco, Maine, told pet site Chewy.

Signs of anxiety to look for

Experts told CBS New York there are several signs of anxiety in dogs to keep an eye out for on the Fourth of July. They suggest keeping an eye out for the following:

  • Urinating or defecating inside
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Destructive behavior
  • Depression
  • Excessive barking
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Repetitive or compulsive behaviors

More Fourth of July pet safety tips to keep in mind

Charcoal, barbecue grills and kabob skewers can hurt pets, the American Veterinary Medical Association warns. Food safety is very important every day, but especially holidays when people might be around your pet who don’t know what types of foods are OK for them to eat. 

Pets need to avoid chocolate, onions, grapes and raisins, fatty and fried foods, macadamia nuts, avocados and products containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener. Alcohol, citrus fruits, salty food and yeasted dough can also be dangerous for pets. Avoid giving a pet corn on the cob as large pieces can cause obstructions.

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