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Top 5 pet safety tips for July 4th

Boom! Boom! Boom!
Rat-a-tat-tat!
Shreeeeeeee Bang! Bang! Bang!
Danger! Danger! – we are under attack!

The State Capitol provides a lovely backdrop for 4th of July fireworks
photo by Carol Terracina Hartman

That’s what 4th of July holiday festivities sound like to dogs. Not all canines react to the boomer fireworks, but for those that do, pet parents have only a few options.

As we celebrate Independence Day, a startling statistic stands out: more pets are lost than any other holiday of the year. The booms, the shrill squeals pre-boom, and the lightning-like flash just before the shrill squeal announcing the boom – all this signals “ATTACK” to a dog. And for dog breeds that are programmed to defend, such as German Shepherd, Akita, Rottweiler, they feel helpless and unable to protect their family and their home. So they look for a place to run.

Fortunately, pet parents have a few options to create a safe environment for their animals, even for those who aren’t afraid of sparklers or bottle rockets.

  1. Keep pets away from neighborhood firework displays. Everyone watched in horror in 2010 as a German Shepherd chased and caught a bottle rocket, while a neighborhood laughed in delight. The resulting damage, as the bottle rocket exploded in the surprised dog’s mouth, was so extensive, that the dog had to be euthanized. Animals do not understand the physics of explosives and will chase anything that sparks and moves and looks dangerous, all in the name of protecting their humans. Keep them inside, or if you must take them along, keep them leashed. This week, a Facebook video surfaced with a Dachsund grabbing a smoking, swirling firework in a driveway and running away with it, trying to protect his family. Everyone laughed and pointed at the dog, but no one tried to protect HIM.
  2. Drown out the noise. Play music, turn on the TV, plug in the laptop and click on “spotify”. Do anything to muffle the sound. Experts suggest classical music (but not composers like Mahler, of course!) For homes with more than one animal, the panic has a trickle-down effect. Kae and Spice never had issues with fireworks until foster dog, Buddy, came into the house. An 85-pound Chow-Newfoundland mix, he was the one trying to climb under the beds (he didn’t make it). Keep in mind dogs have better-than-human hearing; it’s more sensitive. Those boomers that make a heart skip a beat? Just imagine those German Shepherd ears …
  3. Try a Thunder Vest. For about $15 at PetCo or PetSmart or Pet Supplies Plus, a Thunder Vest puts pressure on the nervous system, which calms anxiety. For anxiety-prone breeds, such as many terriers, Shiba Inu, Chow, Chihuahuas, and others, a thunder vest can ease some of the shaking and anxiety symptoms and reduce the tendency to run.
  4. Seek veterinary counsel. Some medical professionals will prescribe anti-anxiety medication or even suggest Benadryl, which can make some canines a little sleepy. Check with your family practitioner first. Be sure to purchase the dye-free type.

Vicky Fletcher, Chief Animal Services Officer of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, which serves Woodland, tells The Daily Democrat she expects the shelter to accept many animals this year. As always.

“They dig out from underneath fences, they chew through fences, they harm themselves to get away from the sound because they don’t know what it is,” Fletcher says. “All they know is that it’s loud and scary.”

But the best way to take care of any companion animal on this 4th of July? Prevention. Stay home, Fletcher told The Daily Democrat.

“If there’s nobody home telling them it’s okay, there’s no comfort zone,” Fletcher explains.

Last tip: keep your pet’s ID tags clean, legible and updated and at least once a year, ask your vet to double check the readability of the microchip with a quick scan. Front Street Animal Shelter is offering microchips for $5 this month (that’s a steal!) to help keep pets safe this holiday month.

For more tips, see HealthyPet.com, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.