Fireworks and Pets

Fireworks and Pets Mix Like Oil and Water.

fireworks and pets

Fireworks and pets

No doubt any pet owner who did not already know that fireworks scare the heck out of pets has learned that fact the last few days.

We have three dogs of our own and are also professional pet sitters.  During the last few days we have seen far too many anxious dogs and cats.  I am distressed that the thoughtless illegal actions of others have troubled so many pets and people. It’s truly distressing to be taking care of pets in a house that sits on a thumbnail sized lot with houses so close you could practically touch them if you stretched your arms out. In one instance I had taken a dog out to “do her business.” Just as she squatted a huge BOOM went off. The poor dog stopped in her tracks and did not relieve herself out of fear.

A neighbor had left his dog tied up outside. The pitiful sounds of the dog whimpering and whining broke my heart. The cats inside the house went into hiding.

Certainly we don’t want to destroy anyone’s fun. But apparently many people have differing definitions of fun. However; I cannot define “fun” as an activity that causes extreme anxiety and fear in pets and also causes severe trauma for those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For someone to define this action as “fun” demonstrates their level of immaturity.

More about those issues later in this post, but for now I want to focus on what we as pet owners can do to reduce the fear and stress our pets feel over the sound and sight of fireworks.

Fireworks and Pets:  How Can we Help Our Pets On July 4 and New Year’s Eve

Let’s face it, we most likely will not be able to get our neighbors to refrain from setting off fireworks.  There’s no point in banging our heads against the wall.  Instead, let’s get prepared for dealing with fireworks and pets.  Here are my top ten ideas.

  1. Talk with your neighbors in a friendly manner.  Find out what their plans are and when they plan to set off their fireworks. Tell them you need to know so that you can prepare your pets or plan on being away from home for awhile.
  2. Ask your neighborhood association to send out a notice suggesting that celebrations be confined to one night only each season….ideally on July 4 and New Year’s Eve. Approach this in a solution focused manner to reduce the need for anyone to fee defensive.
  3. Speak up at neighborhood meetings and discuss the realities of the issues around fireworks and pets. Let people know that some pets shake and drool uncontrollably, some pets try to escape their crates or even their homes. Dogs have been known to escape fences if outside when fireworks start. Any human who has ever experienced an anxiety attack is sure to be able to relate to how horrible that feels to the pet. Maybe I’m still just a little hopeful that folks will change their ways!
  4. If your dogs like car rides consider driving around in the country side where there are less likely to be fireworks displays.  Make sure you have the car radio on and bring along some chew toys for your dogs.
  5. Research camp grounds and find out where dogs are allowed and where traditionally fireworks have not been set off.  Once you know, take off on that camping trip. fireworks and pets
  6. For those of you that don’t like to go camping and for those of you with pets that don’t travel well (cats, birds, fish) learn how to make your home a fortress from loud noises. If you have a basement, that’s probably the best spot.  Turn on window air conditioners and fans to generate noise. Invest in a “white noise” machine.  Turn on the TV or stereo with the kind of music you already know is helpful to your pets. Use heavy curtains to help block noise and flashes of light.
  7. Give your dog something to occupy himself.  For food motivated dogs a frozen stuffed kong is ideal. We really like these ideas from Lynnette Walczak. Engage your cat in play. Pull out that laser light or play with a flirt pole to occupy his attention.
  8. Check out calming products for your cats and dogs. Not all products will be effective on all pets so you will need a little trial and error. Some of our favorites include the Thundershirt (they make them for cats too), Adaptil collars and diffusers (for dogs), Sentry Calming Collars (for dogs and cats), Feliway diffusers for cats, Music Through a Dog’s Ear/Cat’s Ear, Bach’s Flower Rescue Remedy and Nature’s Miracle Cat Calming Spray.
  9. If the environmental efforts you made and the calming products you tried did not work, consult your veterinarian for a prescription medication to calm and sedate your pet during the most stressful events
  10. Remember, this too shall pass.  Try to stay as calm as you can because we know that our pets respond to our moods also.

 

Fireworks and Military Combat Veterans

We promised to address the issue of combat veterans and fireworks too.  Here are our thoughts.

fireworks and pets

Combat Veteran Lives Here

Imagine my horror when I read a post in Next Door from someone who apparently had a large fireworks display in their yard.  The individual defended their actions as being patriotic due to her husband’s past military service. I am proud of my father, uncles and even one aunt who served in the military during WWII, another uncle who served in the US Army during the Korean conflict and my husband who served in the US Air Force for 22 years.

However; service in the military truly does not justify distressing others with illegal actions.  Far too many of our former and retired service members served in combat and continue to suffer from the ill effects many years later.  My own father was traumatized and I know many more were also.

The little things truly can make a difference.  Most veterans with PTSD are happy for you to celebrate with fireworks on July 4. To be courteous, please confine the celebrations to one night, July 4.  Please don’t make a week long celebration out of it.  Also know that many combat veterans prefer not to place a sign in their yard.  If they do place a sign be sure to honor it and warn them of your plans. That way the veteran can either leave home for the evening, take anti anxiety medication, turn up the music or do what ever he or she needs to do to ward off the crippling anxiety attack.

For those who think they are honoring military veterans with fireworks, perhaps it’s time to consider a different way to honor our veterans.  The thoughts expressed by many veterans regarding Memorial Day on the Task & Purpose web page are a good start.  One comment in particular rang true with me.

I understand the sentiment and the desire to convey appreciation. Rather than thank me, however, I would prefer people to take moment and think about the original November 11, in 1918. After a horrific campaign, the endless shelling, gassing, and gunfire ceased at 11 am, replaced with the first silence that the battlefields of World War I had heard in four years. Think of the shock and limitless thankfulness the soldiers felt as they heard birds chirping, something we hear and take for granted every day. They had survived hell, and could be reunited with their families. These men carried the scars of war with them forever, as do veterans of all conflicts. —Angry Staff Officer, U.S. Army National Guardsman

Another statement addressed the issue of service as follows.

With regards to being thanked for my service, no one should be under any obligation to do so. If they want to, that’s fine, although ask about my experiences, the people, the conditions. The real, honest stories we share truly help people understand a concept so foreign (literally and figuratively) to them. If they truly feel the need to thank and support service members, I would encourage them to find a veteran’s group or organization and help them out however they can. —Kyle Dykstra, U.S. Army veteran

Common Courtesy

Common courtesy goes a long way in addressing the concerns. For those of you who enjoy setting off fireworks in your yard, please consider the issues and needs of your neighbors (humans, dogs, cats and birds). For those of us who love and care for pets and humans suffering from PTSD, think proactively about how to approach your neighbors in a non confrontational manner. Be prepared with the actions and products that can most help your pets and you get through these difficult holidays. For me, July 4 will always be difficult because my father took his own life 16 years ago on July 4.  Little did we know that he had always hated July 4. Only after his death did we learn that he had taken out an entire company of men one July 4 during WWII.  I make sure not to knowingly engage in anything stressful on July 4 and simply take care of myself and my family the best way I can. May you do the same.

 

 

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About Beth Harwell

Beth Leatherman Harwell and her husband, Billy Harwell own and operate a local pet sitting business, Dog Walkers & More at Coddle Creek, LLC. Beth and Billy take care of your dogs, cats, birds, fish and small caged pets in the comfort of your own home. Services are provided in Mooresville, Davidson, Cornelius and Mt. Ulla, NC.
Beth is a retired clinical social worker turned business owner. She blogs about pet care needs and the human animal bond.
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Comments

  1. Really very nice & helpful article. this is really nice Fireworks and Pets post. you did a good job Thank you

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