NorthStar Pet: Red, White, and Bark

Independence Day fireworks are awesome and beautiful and unpredictable and loud!

With hearing exponentially more sensitive than humans, fireworks sound exceptionally loud if you are a dog or cat!

Some pets could care less and for others it is pain and fear beyond belief. 

They will gain the strength of 50 football players, contort their bodies in ways you can't begin imagine, squeeze through small spaces, dig under fences, and find anyway they can to escape the loud noises. Electronic containment will not stop a dog from fleeing from fireworks if they are in flight mode.

You know your pet. And, they will often take their cues from you - if you aren't bothered by the loud noises, sometimes that's all they need. And, in spite of the day's distractions, be able to recognize when your dog or cat is becoming uncomfortable.

If your dog is unbalanced and exhibiting anxiety, do not try to comfort them or pet them - that merely reinforces their fear or agitated state. Lead them by your example, maintain a calm, balanced state yourself, tell them they are okay or they are alright, keep them occupied (see below).

Always Prepare:

1. Leave your pets at home. Don't take them to parades or fireworks. No... really... don't.

2. Keep pets safely indoors in a quiet place. If you have a dog or cat who gets upset about fireworks and loud noises, don't let them have the run of the house, keep them enclosed in their crate, their favorite secure safe place (I have a friend whose dog goes and sits in the bathtub during thunderstorms and fireworks), or in a quiet room. Close curtains and blinds and create white noise or sound therapy via tv, radio, MP3, CD, or by running fans.

There are special dog and cat-oriented sound CD's you can purchase or download from Through a Dog's Ear and Through a Cat's Ear. Or, in greater Westerville, pick up Through a Dog's Ear on CD at Raisin Rack.

3. Don't leave pets unattended outside at all. As a matter of fact, keep them leashed, even when they are in the yard. If your dog uses a dog door, make sure it is locked shut. Maintain a constant awareness as you open and close doors (sliding or hinged) and move from indoors to out.

Don't leave your dog in a vehicle.

4. Stay home with your pet (or have a trustworthy, undistracted family member or pet care professional stay with your dog or cat).

5. Talk with your veterinarian - if your pet is seriously stressed the vet may recommend medication or you can plan ahead and try a calming supplement such as Bach Rescue Remedy (locally, Raisin Rack carries Rescue Remedy and Bach products) or use a Thunder Shirt or Anxiety Wrap.

6. Exercise your pets throughout the day. Take your dogs on super long walks (be mindful of heat (cool a dog from beneath), bring water with you), keep them in forward motion (if your dog is used to a treadmill, that works great!), and keep them playing and busy and distracted - a tired dog, that's burned off energy through exercise, has none to burn being concerned about fireworks and will more than likely sleep through the fireworks or be unconcerned.

7. Even if they are going to be indoors, why take the chance - get an I.D. tag for your dog or cat (in addition to the license tag) that includes your name, address, and contact info - nowadays you can pop into places like Pet Supplies Plus and make a tag in minutes - and put a collar with the tags on your pet. If your pet has a chip - make sure your contact information is current and still use the tags as backup I.D. 

The Franklin County Animal Shelter picks up more lost dogs July 4th week than any other time of the year. Heartbreaking. All lost dogs in Franklin County go to the shelter (4340 Tamarack Blvd - it's right off Morse Road next to Menard's -614.525.3647). A huge percentage of licensed dogs in Franklin County are reclaimed. Know it's there, but why put yourself and your dog through that.

I think the most unpredictable concerns are the inevitable neighborhood fireworks. They seem to appear early and linger after the holiday. It's a matter of maintaining awareness and having a plan.

Have a safe, happy, pet-friendly July 4th Holiday!! Happy Birthday, America!

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Photograph: Stock