Pets and fireworks

We love fireworks because of the loud booms and dazzling displays in the sky. Pets hate them because of loud booms and dazzling displays in the sky. Dr. John Ciribassi is with Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants. He says cats and dogs tend to stress out over fireworks because it’s fear of the unknown. It’s a sound they often haven’t had experience with, and they don’t know where it came from.

There are several signs you should watch for if your pet is not handling the fireworks very well.

"In dogs, the most common symptoms that we see would be pacing, panting, whining, barking. Some dogs will do a lot of lip licking, we can see yawning, some dogs will have their ears back and they can hide, they’ll shake. Those are probably the most common symptoms we see," says Ciribassi. "In cats, it’s mostly hiding. You know, go under a bed, in a closet, behind furniture, that type of thing."

Ciribassi says if the dog is only showing a mild stress response, it’s best to ignore it and let him adapt on his own to prevent reinforcing the nervous behavior.

If the dog is really nervous, distract him with an activity he’d enjoy such as obedience commands with treat rewards, or playing fetch.

Ciribassi says another thing you can do is have a “safe place” that the animal can retreat to.

"Often during storms or noise problems like fireworks, we often see dogs gravitate to a particular location to kind of ride it out, and sometimes it’s not a bad idea to improve that location. Put a dog bed in there, put some treats, put some toys during non-fireworks times, and encourage the dog to go to that spot," he recommends. "That familiarity may help the dog ride out the fireworks during an actual episode."

During the fireworks display, be as upbeat as possible. Dogs can pick up on our emotions, so our discomfort can contribute to the animal’s anxiety problem.

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