Bracing for Bangs and Booms
The bang, boom and crackle of colorful fireworks that canvas the skies on July Fourth are things that most people look forward to. However, for pets the day is often dreadful. Dogs, cats and even pocket pets such as hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs find the loud noises alarming, unnerving and hair-raising.
Their adverse reaction to all the hoopla is partly because of the fact that they do not know why such loud noises are suddenly occurring. And it is also because the loud sounds hurt their ears—a fact that is especially true for dogs. Dogs are capable of perceiving frequencies nearly twice that of humans, and they can also distinguish sounds four times as well as humans. Thus sounds are further amplified.
Independence Day is, of course, a popular holiday in the United States. In fact, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, roughly 14,000 fireworks displays light up the sky across the country during every July Fourth. Unfortunately, the day is also a popular one at the nation’s animal shelters. July, in particular, is known as a busy month for shelters because pets often escape or try to run away from the noise of fireworks. Sadly, when they run they sometimes end up injured or lost. Furthermore, because of their innate flight response, beloved pets do not always come back when called.
“Pets who are running in fear may not respond to mom or dad’s calls. Or they may be hiding or have even run so far that they don’t hear the calls,” explains Jennifer Galloway, executive director of the Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers.
Luckily, there are steps that one can take to help alleviate the fears of pets. “First of all, it’s best to keep pets safely inside when there will be loud noises,” says Ria Brown, the public information officer for Lee County Domestic Animal Services in Fort Myers. Brown notes that pets will be more comfortable and comforted if they feel secure inside and are not so subjected to the loud noises.
Dogs can be further soothed with blankets or by wearing a Thunder Shirt, which is a shirt that wraps around a dog (or cat) and applies gentle pressure to provide relief from anxiety and fears. Other over-the-counter ideas include Pet Remedy or D.A.P. Dog Appeasing Pheromone—both natural calming aids. Also available are Mutt Muffs, which offer hearing protection for dogs. Veterinarians may be able to prescribe a calming medication if the pet’s fears and anxieties are extreme.
“Pet owners can also leave the radio or television on a soothing channel that can help mask the noise of the fireworks,” adds Galloway.
One other important step is to refrain from walking pets— either before or after the festivities—as they can sometimes slip through their collars or pull the leash away and then run off.
When it comes to keeping pets safe, it is always best to plan ahead. Collars should have an up-to-date ID tag, and microchipping is also highly suggested. Also, it is important to have recent pet photos available so that lost pet flyers can be easily made and distributed.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals, more than half of lost animals are recovered through some kind of action taken by their owners. If a pet gets lost, owners should check the immediate area where the pet was first missing, distribute flyers and call local animal shelters—many of which post online pictures and descriptions of lost pets.
The ASPCA offers a free app to assist with lost pets, featuring a pet recovery kit and lost pet digital flyer. Download the app at: aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/aspca-mobile-app.
Although July Fourth fireworks shows must go on, with careful planning and consideration the day can turn out to be a blast for all.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and frequent contributor.
Dogs' hearing is quite sensitive, thus they are especially prone to loud noises such as fireworks displays. Doughboy (below) found a forever home, thanks to the Gulf Coast Humane Society.
Cats also can be affected by loud noises, so it is best to keep all pets inside during festivities. Myra (top left) awaits adoption at the Gulf Coast Humane Society. At a recent GCHS National Walk Your Dog Day (top right), volunteers and staff jogged with shelter dogs on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Fort Myers. GCHS executive director Jennifer Galloway (right) sits with her dogs Zeke, Wil and Acheron.