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Fireworks and pets: keeping furry friends safe during firework season

Cat afraid of loud noise. Fireworks are stress for pets and animals. Firework light outside in background.

SALT LAKE CITY — Pops, bangs and sparkly colors are great for most kids and adults. But, the family pet probably doesn’t think so.

Fireworks are flying off the stands at a record pace this year because of public firework shows being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And veterinarians are very concerned for the furry friends. 

Many pets are scared of loud noises and how they deal with their stress varies depending on the pet’s personality.  

“You need to get to know your pet and what their needs are,” said Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Jessica Love. “Some need to be close to their owners, others try to find specific hiding places in the home, and then there are the ones which try to get as far away as possible.”

If your pet reacts badly to the sound of fireworks, Love advises using white noise, or a loud television can help block out the sound.  If that doesn’t work, you may want to try desensitizing them.

In order to desensitize the pet, “you need to start several weeks before the 4th or 24th of July, but you can play a recording of fireworks at a very soft level while the pet is eating.” said Love.  “Then every three or four days, slightly turn up the volume.”

If the pet reacts to the increase in volume, lower it again for several more days.

If desensitizing doesn’t work, Dr. Love recommends using sedatives. “You have to talk to your veterinarian before choosing this option,” said Love.  “It depends on your pet’s health as to how much and which type of medication will work.”

Keeping your pets indoors during the July holidays is the advice both veterinarians and animal advocates are giving. Pets running away from loud noises is sometimes their first instinct.

Temma Martin, Public Relations Manager for Best Friends Animal Society, said if your pet is lost, it could be out on the streets a lot longer this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. So, it’s important to have identification on all your pets.

“Some shelters have shorter hours due to lack of staff,” said Martin. “And many animal control officers are only working on an emergency basis. Which means, they aren’t available to pick up lost pets.”

Martin also warned about keeping pets indoors at all times if you light your own fireworks at home.  “Many dogs see those bright objects as a toy, or prey, and will go after it.  If they pick one up with their mouths, it will be disastrous.”

Dr. Love said if you do keep your pet indoors, it’s important to check on them frequently. “Make sure you don’t respond too strongly if your pet is agitated. They can get more stressed by how you react.”  

Both Martin and Love mentioned it isn’t just pets that don’t like fireworks.  “Many soldiers,” Martin said, “especially those from the Gulf War, are especially sensitive to loud cracks and bangs.”