I’ve always enjoyed the 4th of July. There’s nothing quite like a big firework display. The resounding ka-booms, the glorious colors, the crowds. They are great fun for people, but pets can find them downright scary.

Many years ago my old Labrador (who was supposed to be safe in the bedroom) nudged open the door and took off during a firework show while we were down at the dock watching the display in the night sky. We walked the streets for an hour before we found my sweetie who had been scared so badly that she had run up the hill and ended up in a neighbor’s pool. None of my pets before, nor after, have been so frightened by fireworks.

Perhaps I can now offer suggestions to help you prevent such an episode for your family.

  • Consider sedation. Veterinarians send a lot of sedatives out the door the week before 4th of July. Even the noise of poppers can make some pets want to jump out of their skin. Alprazolam (also known as xanax) is my favorite medication for fireworks because in addition to making a pet sleepy it decreases anxiety. Some veterinarians use acepromazine which is strictly a sedative. Some pets might need a touch of both! Whichever your vet feels is right for your pet, do get it a week or so prior to the 4th of July. Be sure to give yourself a chance to have a trial run before the big fireworks night. Some neighborhoods are filled with thundering fireworks noises for the entire week around the 4th of July.
  • Consider a ThunderShirt. ThunderShirts can be very effective. They are adjustable jackets that make your pet feel like it’s getting a big hug. It can be very comforting for a pet. If your pet is only slightly affected by fireworks noises, it might be adequate. If your pet is very nervous about fireworks (or thunder storms), it may simply lessen the amount of sedatives needed to keep your pet calm.
  • White noise is a good thing! While the fireworks are sounding off outdoors, you might play calming music on the stereo or turn up the volume on the television to help drown out the outside noise.
  • Consider a kennel or “safe zone”. Many dogs feel safe in their kennel or padded crate. Who can blame them? One of my cats likes sitting on the towels in the linen closet. We all like a place in the home to call our own.
  • If your pet is still anxious, consider staying home with your pet. Your pet’s safe zone might just be in your lap. If your pet is particularly anxious about fireworks, perhaps you should invite your friends to your home rather than going out on the town. This way your pet can be with you as you enjoy the evening.
  • Keep your address and phone numbers current with the microchip company and make sure your pet’s tag has your current phone number. Hopefully you never have a situation like I had when my dog got so scared from fireworks that she ran off. Nonetheless, this is a good time to remind you to keep your pet’s tags and microchip information current.

We at ADW wish you a happy and safe Independence Day!

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.
Dr . Joi Sutton