4th Of July Safety: Pets And Fireworks Make For An Uneasy, Sometimes Deadly Combo


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During Independence Day weekend, while we humans enjoy small town parades, family barbecues, and late night fireworks displays, thousands of pets all across the US will be in a panic.

You see, Fido and Fluffy don’t understand that the “rockets red glare” and the “bombs bursting in air” we enjoy every 4th of July are just humans’ idea of relatively harmless fun.

On 4th of July weekend, we encourage pet parents to remember that holiday fireworks are often at the center of pet injuries, and we should take proper measures should to keep all dogs and cats as safe as possible as Americans celebrate their country’s birthday.

Pets & Fireworks: What Could Go Wrong?

Cute dog looking to American flag. USA Memorial or Independence day concept.

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Fireworks can make the Fourth of July the scariest night of the year for dogs. The sudden, deafening sounds — what’s loud to us is ear-piercing to them — and bursts of light in the sky can elicit serious anxiety, if not downright terror.

Plus, shelters see the highest number of intakes on July 5th, the day after Independence Day, as dogs can easily get spooked by exploding fireworks and flee into the night.

But it’s not just fear that can present a danger to our pets. Dogs have been known to try and attack fireworks or firecrackers, eat them, catch them, or try to play with them, sometimes resulting in horrible injuries — and even death.

In 2010 a dog tried to fetch a lit firework, and it exploded in his mouth. The resulting wounds on the German Shepherd’s mouth and face were so severe the dog had to be euthanized. Dogs who’ve had run-ins with bottle rockets and mortars have been burned, have damaged limbs, and have even lost eyes as a result.

“People toss a firework or firecracker in the air, and the dog jumps up, swallows it, and the firecrackers cause severe damage to the external organs,” Colorado veterinarian Eliza Mazzaferro explains.

Dr. Mazzaferro says fireworks can cause injuries in less direct ways, too. “Pets get anxious and break out of kennels, jump through windows and get lacerations, and when loose, can get hit by cars,” Dr. Mazzaferro says.

Very anxious pets can and sometimes do hurt themselves trying to flee from the unsettling sounds of fireworks. “I have seen them bite through a metal cage and injure their teeth and gums, and also jump through plate glass windows,” explains Dr. Mazzaferro. “They try to escape the noise, not knowing that it is outside.”

Shelters And Rescues Prepare For The 4th

dog and cat lying together

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Many animal shelters and rescue organizations take precautions in the days leading up to 4th of July festivities, knowing full well what can happen when a building full of animals is frantic with terror.

A fireworks show in 2012 near a shelter in the United Kingdom frightened dogs so badly they literally tore out their claws and ripped up their paws, overcome with terror, scratching at their cages to get free. In the weeks following the display, some dogs were still jumpy, clearly shell-shocked from the ordeal.

Similar scenes may play out in shelters and homes here in the US over the holiday weekend. Staff at many animal shelters take preparation measures like moving all of the animals in their care inside the shelter building and playing music to drown out the booms and bangs of fireworks as best as they can.

When nearby town fireworks displays begin, some animals in shelters will panic, startled by the loud, unfamiliar noises, while others will stress out because of their shelter mates’ fright. This can create a dangerous trickle-down effect among the pets in a shelter’s care.

In recent years, some shelters have allowed volunteer members of the public to stay with the animals and provide comfort. Check your local shelter if this is something you’d like to do. Shelters may or may not allow this in 2020 with new pandemic safety guidelines.

How To Help Your Dog Feel Safe On The 4th Of July

Boy and a dog sitting on the sofe at home with american flag

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Pet parents should keep their animals inside, secure and supervised. Just having mom or dad there while the fireworks are going off outside can have a calming effect on scared pets.

To avoid sending your pets trembling with fear, hiding in remote parts of the house, or running away, here are a few tips for keeping them feeling safe and secure:

  • Keep your dog inside, and if possible, don’t leave them alone in the house.
  • Drown out the noise of the fireworks as much as possible. Close your windows and turn on the radio or television.
  • Make sure your pet has access to their crate or “safe place” during the show, and casually toss them a treat once in a while.
  • Act normal! Talk to your dog in an upbeat voice and go about your usual activities. Coddling or babying isn’t advised: your dog takes cues from you, so if they sense that you’re confident and unafraid, they’ll be more likely to respond in a similar manner.
  • Take a trip to the vet. Your vet can advise you on ways to calm your dog and even recommend medication, supplements, or environment changes that could help.

Not surprisingly, many fireworks-phobic dogs also exhibit fearful behaviors during other times of the year. Lightening and thunderstorms, for example, can be particularly scary.

If you think your pup is experiencing regular anxiety, then you should get help. Your vet, a reputable trainer, or a professional pet behaviorist can help you both work through these issues.

Does your dog get frightened around 4th of July weekend? How are you keeping your dog safe from fireworks this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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