Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center

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Fireworks fears? Tips to protect your pets

Many people enjoy the sounds and lights of fireworks, but they can be terrifying and overwhelming for your pets. 

Here, Dr. Leni Kaplan, senior lecturer of community practice service in the Department of Clinical Sciences, explains how to look for signs of distress in your pets. She also provides some tips for keeping them safe and happy during summer celebrations.

What are the signs that a pet is distressed because of fireworks or thunder? 

There is a spectrum of signs that pets display when they are distressed by these loud noises, including trembling, hiding in odd-but-quiet places (under furniture, in a closet, in the bathroom, etc.), pacing, drooling and seeking attention from their owners.

Why do some pets react so negatively to these noises? 

Some pets develop behavioral disorders, such as phobias related to storms and noise. The animals develop fear and anxiety related to these stimuli whether or not they will be harmed by the stimulus — their survival instinct may be rooted in this behavior. There may be triggers other than the noises themselves that are causing these animals to panic — such as changes in barometric pressure or wind gusts.

Can fear of these noises cause my pet to injure themselves or others? 

Yes. These animals basically have an anxiety attack and react accordingly. They may injure themselves or put themselves in danger while trying to hide and find safety. While panicking, they may unintentionally and unmaliciously bite someone who is simply trying to soothe them or keep them safe.

What can I do to help my pet relax while the fireworks or thunder are raging? 

The best thing to do is to prevent the animal from becoming panicked and afraid in the first place. In preparation for fireworks or if you know a storm is coming, you may want to consider crating your dog or isolating them in a room where they feel safe — with closed windows and a noise distraction, such as the television or radio. After the pet is already panicking, it will be very difficult to get them to relax.

Are there proactive things I can do to prevent my pet from becoming distressed? 

You should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss ways to reduce your pet’s fear and anxiety of fireworks or thunderstorms. Your veterinarian may also opt to prescribe anti-anxiety medications to be used prior to known stressful events — such as fireworks and thunderstorms. 

It is best if these medications have been tried prior to the stressful event so that the dose can be adjusted as needed. Make sure to schedule your veterinary appointment at least one week in advance of the anticipated event or weather season.

This article originally appeared as a CVM press release distributed to the media.