Preventing pyrotechnic panic: Tips for keeping pets safe when fireworks boom

Cookie, an Austrlian shepherd-mix, is just one of millions of pets who grow anxious and panic when fireworks boom overhead, St. George, Utah, July 2, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The day after independence Day is one of the busiest for animal shelters nationwide as pets who panicked and ran away as fireworks boomed the night before are brought in.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, otherwise known as the ASPCA, reports that its Animal Poison Control Center receives an increase in calls around Independence Day due to pets having issues with loud noises from fireworks or even having eaten fireworks.

Stock image | St. George News

There’s an increase of around 30 to 60 percent in lost pets between July 4 and 6, according to information shared by the St. George Animal Shelter.

The loud booms can scare both cats and dogs, though the reaction from dogs tends to be more pronounced.

Loud bangs and booms will commonly send a cat into hiding while a dog will do its best to escape the noises altogether. Fido will start running and keep running.

A dog in St. George could end up in Washington City or Santa Clara. These pets can get lost and end up in the custody of area animal shelters. Some dogs may not be so lucky due to being injured or killed in traffic.

Last year the St. George Animal reported taking in nine dogs between July 3-5, 2017, shelter supervisor April Jewell said.

However, shelter workers also see an increase in lost pets following the pyrotechnic displays that accompany Pioneer Day and New Year’s Day, Jewell said.

“The safest thing is to keep them inside,” she said, adding that the sound of fireworks can sometimes be drowned out by playing music or noise from the television.

To make it easier to find pets if they runaway, Jewell suggests getting identification tags and having pets microchipped.

“Obviously, don’t take your pet to any of the fireworks activities,” Jewell said.

The following are tips from the ASPCA website for pet owners to help keep their pets safe and panic-free while the fireworks are underway:

  • Something as simple as turning on some soft music and moving your pet into an interior room with no windows can be helpful.
  • An anxiety vest may work in some cases – if you don’t have one, try a snug-fitting T-shirt.
  • If you and your veterinarian do decide that anti-anxiety mediation is your pet’s best bet, there are a few things to remember. First and foremost, give a practice dose of the medication before the big night to see how your pet responds to the medication. Second, never share the medication with another pet or give more than the recommended amount. If you do, you may end up spending the holiday at your local veterinary emergency clinic.
  • While noise phobias are not as common in cats, they can and do happen. Fortunately, cats tend to hide when frightened. Checking in on your cats, having some quiet music on and keeping them indoors during the height of the fireworks is always a good idea.

If your pet is the type to taste new and unusual things:

  • While cats are typically a little smarter, 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.

Additional tips:

  • Keep pets away from lit fireworks at all times, including in your own yard or street, as some will chase after the bright moving objects and are at risk to be burned or blinded in the process.
  • Ensure that pets are microchipped and wear current identification tags, just in case they accidentally get loose.
  • If your pet does go missing over the holiday, check immediately and often with local animal shelters. Go to the shelter in person to identify your pet, rather than calling or emailing, as staff may not be able to respond in a timely enough fashion.

Under Utah law, fireworks can be set off two days before and one day after the 4th of July and Pioneer Day.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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