The Fourth of July is a time of celebration…all about family, fun, food…and fireworks. However, animal welfare groups assert that it is the most dangerous day of the year for your dog, and rescues and shelters are inundated in the days following the Fourth with pets who, panicked at the noise of firecrackers , simply bolted and ran, winding up lost, injured, or killed. The truth is that fireworks and dogs simply do not mix well! Even the bravest dogs can become terrified by the explosions of fireworks, which are loud to the human ear, and your dog’s hearing is more sensitive than the human ear can even register. The most important thing you can do is to keep her away from fireworks displays!
*Do NOT leave your dog outside. Many otherwise calm dogs have broken their restraint or jumped a fence in a terrified attempt to find safety. If you have friends or neighbors who leave their dogs outdoors, please visit with them about the dangers involved.
*Be sure your pet’s information is up-to-date. Often fireworks are set off ahead of the official scheduled time, by well meaning neighbors or friends, and your dog can escape if he is startled by the fire and thunder shattering the night! If your pet doesn’t have a collar with current info on it, as well as a microchip with your current information, now is the time to get them. Identification is the best way to be reunited with a lost dog.
*Never use fireworks around your pets. While lit fireworks can pose a danger to curious pets and potentially result in severe burns or trauma, even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many fireworks contain potentially toxic substances including potassium nitrate, arsenic, and other heavy metals.
*Exercise your dog early in the day before the fireworks begin, and take him outside to relieve himself a few hours before the fireworks begin. Then confine him to a quiet area of your home that is somewhat sheltered from outside noise. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure to remove items that they might destroy or be harmful to them if chewed. Create a safe haven with a cozy, inviting bed, favorite toys, and maybe a Kong or two.
*Turn on a fan, the radio, or the television (or maybe all three) to drown out the popping and the booming, and close the curtains or blinds We have a shelf full of CD’s promising to calm dogs, and most of them are what I call “snake oil,” but we did find one that works…itreally calms frightened or traumatized dogs. Canine Lullabies is amazing; we have used it for years at the TLC Canine Center. For information on this CD, go to www.caninelullabies.com, or call toll free, 1-800-537-7748. Actually I suggest you check out the website to get basic info, and then call and visit with Terry.
*Bach Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic natural relief for any stressful situation, and this blend of 5 of the 38 Bach Original Flower Essences, developed by Dr. Edward Bach, has been used by humans for more than 70 years. It has also been found helpful in creating calming effect when your pet needs help overcoming a variety of emotional or behavioral problems. I have found it to be very effective on some dogs. Check it out at www.rescueremedy.com
*We have also successfully used a commercial product, the Thundershirt. Created by behavioral experts, this item often calms dogs in a manner similar to swaddling an infant. It uses gentle hugging to lessen anxiety or fear. How does it work? I don’t know, and it doesn’t work on every dog, but for those who have anxious or traumatized dogs, it is worth a try. It is believed that the pressure possibly releases a calming hormone like endorphins, and certainly using pressure to relieve anxiety in both people and animals has been a common practice for years. Many medical professionals today routinely teach swaddling to new parents, and families and friends have been passing down this wisdom for centuries. Go to www.thundershirt.com for info.
Please do yourself (and your dog) a favor this holiday and keep her safely inside, away from dangerous, toxic, hot, frightening items. By just taking a few precautions, everyone…canine and human… will have a safe, happy, Fourth of July.
Larsen can be contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org