Keep your pet safe on July 4th in Washington DC by following these suggestions. Fireworks, barbecues and activities with friends are all staples of the Fourth of July. But for pets and their owners, this holiday which is celebrated all around the Beltway may present some added stress. For some pets, especially dogs and cats with particularly noise-sensitive ears, the sound of fireworks can cause intense fear responses. Some pets will go to extremes to hide while others get startled and run away. Regardless, general anxiety caused by unexpected loud sounds can have long-lasting effects on animals. If you know me at all, you know that I love my standard poodle, Captain, and I worry about all the other dogs and cats out there.

Make Sure Your Pet is Easily Identified

Did you know there are increased reports of lost pets during around the 4th of July. Pets can be startled by fireworks or other loud noises associated with Independence Day celebrations, causing them to run away.

If you have a fenced yard, make sure to look for any weak spots; don’t rely on it to keep your pet secured when they’re under stress. When frightened, a dog can dig under or climb over a fence that would normally securely contain them.  Once loose, a panicked dog can run for miles without any awareness of where they are, so they’re unable to find the way home once they calm down.

The noises may cause your pet to run and look for safety. Every dog is a flight risk if they’re scared!   Many of the dogs and cats who turn up in shelters around July 4th are owned animals who escaped due to fear or accidental openings of doors.

To maximize the chances of getting this happening to your pet, it’s crucial to take preventive measures such as:

  • Ensuring pets are indoors or in a secure, safe environment during fireworks displays.
  • Keeping doors and windows closed to prevent pets from escaping.
  • Making sure pets have proper identification, such as collars with tags or microchips with updated information.
  • There are great collars for dogs and cats which you can special order that have their names (optional) and their address and your phone number woven into the collar. That way, if they get loose and they are still wearing their collar, they can be returned home more easily.

If your pet does go missing, be ready to search local shelters and neighborhoods promptly.   Have an updated photo of your dog or cat so you can share it with neighbors and shelters.

By being proactive and cautious, pet owners in Washington DC and elsewhere can help reduce the risk of their pets becoming lost during this potentially stressful time.

Your Pet Doesn’t Need to Go to the Fireworks With You

Keep your pet safe on July 4th by leaving him or her home from the fireworks.  The 4th of July celebration in Washington DC and all around the Beltway is amazing, but your pet doesn’t need to go along with you.  (You can tell them all about it when you get home! I promise)

Not only can pets be overstimulated by crowds, but fireworks can cause damage to their sensitive ears and cause fear.  Those repetitive loud bangs — that make your ears ring or hurt your ears, definitely are going to hurt your pet’s ears.  It’s probably a good idea to give your pet a long walk before the fireworks start around 9 pm so that they are tired and might even sleep through the celebration.  (That doesn’t work with Captain who can definitely differentiate between fireworks and thunder!  Fireworks get lots of barking.)

Did you know that a dog’s ears are shaped in such a way that they funnel sound, making their hearing much better than that of people. This allows them to pick up sounds in various directions by swiveling their ears toward a sound.

Create a Safe Environment to Keep Your Pet Safe on July 4th

One of the most important things you can do for your pet ahead of the holiday is to create a safe environment inside your home.  Close and cover the windows, move the pet crates, beds or kennels to quieter places in the house, and put on sounds other than fireworks, such as the TV, radio or white noise. Bring outdoor pets inside for the evening, and make sure they have plenty of room.

If your pet likes to hide when afraid or nervous, go with the flow.  Set up places for them to go where they can feel safe.  For example, if they hide in a closet, set them up there with a bed, their food and water.  If you have crate trained dogs, now might be a great time to move their crate to a part of the house that is least disruptive by noise.

Just remember to let them to come and go from their safe space as they please. Shutting them in a single room or small space can sometimes increase anxiety or they can hurt themselves or damage items trying to escape.

Keep Calm and Carry On!

During stressful events like fireworks, pet owners frequently feel the urge to comfort their pets by petting them or speaking soothingly. However, one of the most effective ways to calm pets is for owners to remain calm themselves.

Pets are highly attuned to their owners’ emotions and reactions. If a pet owner becomes anxious or stressed about how their pet might react to fireworks, this can actually intensify the pet’s feelings of stress and anxiety. Pets may interpret their owner’s anxiety as confirmation that there is something to be fearful of, thus heightening their own distress.

Therefore, by staying relaxed and composed, pet owners can help create a more calming environment for their pets. This approach can reassure pets that everything is okay and reduce their overall anxiety levels during noisy and unpredictable events like Fourth of July fireworks. After all, what you really want is to keep your pet safe on July 4th!

Watch What Your Pets Might Eat on July 4th

Keep your pet safe on July 4th in Washington DC by making sure that they don’t eat anything unusual.  Captain is a total chow hound who has no idea that anything will make him sick!  Chocolate, paper and books, socks and gloves are all fair game for him.

While cats are typically a little smarter than this, some dogs will eat anything, regardless of how it tastes—including fireworks! Never underestimate your pet’s level of curiosity.  Fireworks contain several types of chemicals and heavy metals. If you set off fireworks at home, make sure you thoroughly clean up the area before letting your dog have access again.

Even if you aren’t setting off fireworks in your backyard, keep an eye on the food set out for the party.  So many things are bad for pets that you might not know about – such as raisins and grapes, avocado and onions, garlic and alcohol.  Sounds like no Cinquo de Mayo parties for Captain next year!  At least no margueritas and guacamole!

Thunder Shirts

Captain only barks at the fireworks but he doesn’t quake like my first poodle, Poirot, did.  Poirot could make the bed shake he was so frightened by thunderstorms and fireworks.  We finally bought him a thunder shirt, which seemed to reduce the shaking a bit and perhaps calmed him a little.  It may help to calm during fireworks, thunderstorms, travel, vet visits, separation anxiety and more!  Like swaddling an infant, the Thunder Shirt applies gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, fear, and over-excitement issues.

Talk to Your Vet About Medication to Keep Your Pet Safe on July 4th

Pets with acute stress may need prescription medication for their safety and so they’re not scared during fireworks displays.  Booking an appointment with your veterinarian will help you determine the best medication based on your pet’s symptoms and medical history.   If you don’t want to go with prescription medication, your vet may be able to recommend an over the counter option. After all the point is to keep your pet safe on July 4th.


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