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A sky full of fireworks, a heart full of dreams, and a terrified dog.

I always dread the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve because two of my dogs are terrified of fireworks. One will shake and pant. The other will just not act like herself. Many dogs will try to escape if they are caught outside when the fireworks go off. Central Texas Lost and Found Pets on Facebook sees dozens of posts an hour on nights with fireworks. Fur babies just don't like the loud sounds and the erratic nature of fireworks.

Luckily there are things to do to prepare your pets for fireworks.

In the week before fireworks, the following can be done to prepare:

  • Desensitization Training: Gradually expose your pet to recordings of fireworks at a low volume, rewarding them for remaining calm. Slowly increase the volume over time. This can help them become accustomed to the sound.

  • Consult Your Veterinarian: For pets with severe anxiety, your veterinarian might recommend anti-anxiety medications or supplements. There are also various calming products available, such as pheromone diffusers and anxiety wraps.

  • Update ID Tags and Microchips: In case your pet does escape, ensure their ID tags and microchip information are up to date. This increases the likelihood of a safe return if they become lost. If your pet isn't microchipped, area vets can implant one for you. Be sure the newly implanted chip is registered so you can be reached quickly in the event your pet escapes.

In the days before fireworks, you can

  • Create a Safe Space: Designate a quiet, comfortable area in your home where your pet can retreat. This could be a room with minimal windows or a cozy crate. Make sure they have their favorite toys, blankets, and other familiar items.

On days when there will be fireworks,

  • Keep Pets Indoors: Ensure your pets are indoors well before the fireworks start (before it gets dark). This reduces the risk of them running away in a panic. DO NOT TAKE YOUR PETS TO EVENTS THAT MAY HAVE FIREWORKS!

  • Soundproof: Close windows, draw curtains, and play soothing music or white noise to help mask the sound of fireworks. This can create a calming environment and reduce the intensity of the noises from outside.

  • Stay Calm: Pets often take cues from their owners. If you remain calm and composed, it can help your pet feel more secure. Avoid reinforcing fearful behavior with excessive comforting, as this can sometimes increase anxiety. This one is really hard for me because I want to make my dog feel better.

  • Engage Their Attention: Provide distractions such as puzzle toys, treats, or play sessions to keep their mind occupied. Engaging activities can help reduce anxiety and keep their focus away from the noise outside. Some dogs may be to afraid to participate in these activities and that's okay.

  • Stay with Your Pet: If possible, stay home with your pet during the fireworks. Your presence can be a significant source of comfort.

After fireworks,

  • Safety Check: Check to make sure your fence is secure before letting your pet out after fireworks. This will reduce their risk of escaping if there is a late popper.

  • Lost a Pet: If you lose a pet, be sure to post them on local lost and found pets pages, Nextdoor, and Paw Boost. Contact their microchip company to mark your pet lost. Put up simple flyers in your yard to alert your neighbors. Here are some great tips if you lose a pet:

  • Found a Pet: If you find a pet, walk them around the neighborhood. Most found pets are within a mile of their home. Take them to be scanned for a microchip at any vet office or any Waco fire station. Post them on local pages. Try to get them home before taking them to the already crowded shelter. Be sure to give the owner at least 72 hours to reclaim their pet before considering rehoming it. This website has some helpful types if you find a pet:

The 4th of July can be a challenging time for pets, but with the right preparation and care, you can help them navigate these events in a safe way. I wish I could say it could be stress-free, but for some dogs nothing you do will help. By taking proactive steps, you can ensure that your furry family member is safe and not a statistic on the 4th of July.

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