Keeping Your Pets Calm During Fourth of July

Keeping Your Pets Calm During Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is an exciting and eventful holiday for many people in the United States, however the festivities and fireworks the holiday brings can trigger fear and anxiety in our beloved pets. While dogs are particularly known to be sensitive to loud noises and bright flashes, cats can also experience stress during these events.

As responsible pet owners, it's crucial to understand why our dogs and cats are afraid of fireworks and learn effective strategies to help keep them calm and safe during stressful situations. In this article, we address the fears of dogs and cats relating to fireworks, followed by valuable tips to alleviate their anxiety.


Two dachshunds trying to enjoy fireworks

Why are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?

Fireworks can cause fear in animals due to a number of reasons, with the major factor being their sensitive hearing. Dogs have a more acute sense of hearing than humans, allowing them to detect a much wider range of frequencies. Fireworks produce loud and sudden noises that can be distressing for dogs and are significantly louder for our pets than they are for us. In addition to the volume and frequency of the sounds, the intensity and unpredictable nature of fireworks can startle and overwhelm them, triggering fear and anxiety. 

It's understandable why loud noises in general can trigger a dog's flight response, but the unpredictability factor is also important to note. Dogs are creatures of routine, and the sudden, booming noises disrupt their sense of security. The unfamiliarity of the sounds adds to their anxiety, as they cannot predict when they will occur or associate them with anything familiar. Because a dog is unable to understand the source of the loud, erratic sounds, the natural response is fear.

Vibrations and bright flashes of light are yet two more additional aspects of fireworks that make them challenging to navigate for most animals. The vibrations and flashing lights are sensory stimuli that dogs perceive as potential threats or danger signals. These visual and tactile cues contribute to their fear response and increase their overall anxiety during fireworks displays.

It's worth noting that dogs may also develop a fear of fireworks through negative past experiences. If a dog has previously encountered a traumatic event or loud noises during fireworks displays, it can create a lasting association between fireworks and fear. This association may heighten their anxiety in future instances, even if the initial negative experience was unrelated to fireworks.

In a show of compassion and understanding of our dogs' concerns this holiday season, the Gardner City Police Department recently chose to hand out calming bites in tandem with Gardner Pet Supply. In an effort to keep our dogs' mental health at the forefront of our holidays, the Gardner City Police decided to hand out one pouch of Honest Paws calming treats per dogfor each of the three legal days to discharge fireworks in their city.

Understanding why fireworks are scary for pets allows us as pet owners to take appropriate measures to help keep our pets calm and safe during fireworks displays. By providing a comforting environment, using strategies to minimize noise impact, and offering distractions or anxiety-reducing techniques, pet owners can help alleviate their pets' anxiety and ensure their well-being during festive celebrations.


 A dog resting on his owners lap.

Here are some helpful tips to keep your dog calm:

  • Create a Safe Haven: Set up a quiet, secure area in your home where your dog can retreat to during fireworks. Provide familiar bedding, toys, and comforting scents to create a soothing environment.
  • Experiment with Sound Masking: Play soft, calming music or turn on a white noise machine to help drown out the sounds of fireworks. This can provide a sense of normalcy and reduce the impact of the loud noises.
  • Distraction with Toys: Engage your dog in mentally stimulating activities such as puzzle toys or interactive games. This redirects their focus and helps alleviate anxiety.
  • Comforting Presence: Stay close to your dog during fireworks displays to provide reassurance and a calming presence. Your physical presence can offer them a sense of security.

 A cat trying to decide what it thinks of these strange fireworks and noises.

Are Cats Afraid of Fireworks?

While cats tend to be more resilient and less prone to fear of fireworks compared to dogs, some cats can still experience stress or anxiety during fireworks displays. The reasons for cats' fear of fireworks are similar to those of dogs, albeit to a lesser extent.

Like dogs, cats have sensitive hearing, although not as acute as that of dogs. The loud noises produced by fireworks can startle and stress cats, leading to temporary fear or anxiety. However, cats generally exhibit more independent and aloof behavior, which can make them less visibly fearful than dogs.

Another factor is the disruption of routine. Similar to dogs, cats thrive on predictability and familiarity within their environment. Fireworks, loud sounds, and bright flashes can disrupt a cat's peaceful surroundings and unsettle their sense of security. While not all cats will exhibit fear, some may display signs of stress or seek hiding places to retreat from the unfamiliar commotion.

It's important for cat owners to observe their cats during fireworks displays and provide a calming environment. Creating a quiet sanctuary where cats can retreat, offering familiar bedding and hiding spots, and minimizing noise impact by closing windows or playing calming music can help alleviate their anxiety.

Every cat is unique, and individual reactions to fireworks may vary. Some cats may show no signs of fear, while others may require extra attention and care. Understanding your individual cat's behavior and needs is essential in ensuring their well-being during Fourth of July or other occasions when fireworks are prevalent.

Consulting with a veterinarian can provide further guidance and potential solutions to help ease your cat's stress during fireworks displays. By taking appropriate measures and providing a secure and comforting environment, cat owners can help minimize anxiety and ensure the safety of their cats during such events.


 A cat relaxing with it's owner while fireworks sound off.

Here are some helpful tips to keep your cat calm:

  • Create a Quiet Sanctuary: Create a quiet and secluded space where your cat can retreat during fireworks. Provide cozy hiding spots, comfortable bedding, and familiar scents to help them feel safe.
  • Encourage Play and Exercise: Engage your cat in play sessions before the fireworks start to help release any pent-up energy. Physical activity can help reduce stress levels.
  • Introduce Calming Pheromones: Consider using synthetic calming pheromone diffusers or sprays designed for cats. These products mimic natural feline pheromones and can help create a sense of calm.
  • Avoid Forced Interaction: Allow your cat to choose whether they want to seek comfort or hide during fireworks. Avoid forcing them out of their hiding spot, as it may increase their stress.

By implementing these tips, such as creating safe spaces, providing distractions, and ensuring a comforting environment, we can help alleviate our pet's anxiety and ensure their safety during Fourth of July celebrations. Remember, each pet is unique, so observe their behavior and consult with your veterinarian for additional guidance if needed.


A small dog using a thunder jacket (aka: calming vest) while fireworks go off. 

Do Thunder Jackets really work for dogs and cats?

Thunder jackets, also known as anxiety wraps or calming vests, have been reported to provide some relief for pets experiencing fear or anxiety, including during fireworks displays. These jackets are designed to provide a gentle, constant pressure to the pet's body, which can have a calming effect and help reduce anxiety.

While the exact mechanism behind thunder jackets' effectiveness is not fully understood, pet owners have found them to be beneficial in soothing their pets during stressful situations, including fireworks. The pressure applied by the jacket is believed to mimic the feeling of being held or hugged, which can have an anxiety-reducing effect for some animals.

Not all pets will respond the same way to thunder jackets, as each animal is unique, and individual reactions may vary. Some pets may experience significant relief and show a noticeable reduction in anxiety when wearing a thunder jacket, while others may not show a significant response. This is where knowing your pet and their individual needs is important, as some animals prefer less hands-on comforting during intense situations.

If you're considering using a thunder jacket for your pet's fear of fireworks, it is recommended to introduce it gradually and allow your pet to get accustomed to wearing it in a comfortable and positive manner. It's also important to ensure that the jacket fits properly and provides a snug yet comfortable fit without restricting movement or causing discomfort.

While thunder jackets can be a helpful tool in managing your pet's fear and anxiety, they are best used in combination with other strategies to create a calm environment and provide reassurance to your pet. Creating a safe space, minimizing noise impact, and offering distractions or anxiety-reducing techniques can further contribute to helping your pet cope with fireworks-related anxiety.

As always, if your pet's fear or anxiety is severe or persists despite using a thunder jacket or other interventions, it's recommended to consult with a veterinarian. They can provide personalized guidance and may suggest additional strategies or treatments to help alleviate your pet's fear during fireworks displays or other anxiety-inducing situations.


A dog taking a dose of cbd to try and calm it's nerves. 

Can CBD help my pet during fireworks?

Considering CBD products for your pets to help with their fear of fireworks can be an option worth exploring if other strategies or interventions have not provided sufficient relief. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound derived from the cannabis plant that is known for its potential calming and anxiety-reducing effects. Remember, CBD is not a cure-all and its effectiveness can vary among animals. It can even vary between dogs of the same breed, or cats of the same breed.

Providing your pet with a calm environment, positive reinforcement, and a safe space are all large factors that help your pet feel safe when fireworks (or even thunderstorms) start going off!

Ultimately, the decision to use CBD products for your pet should be made in consultation with a veterinarian who can provide personalized advice based on your pet's specific needs and circumstances.


Two scared dogs hiding from firework noise.

What do I do if my pet runs away during fireworks?

Fireworks are a stressful time for pets and it’s important to take precautions to ensure their safety. Did you know that there is a 30% increase in lost pets after July 4th? On average, only 14% of lost pets are returned to their owners. When you’re partying at 4th of July celebrations, your dog or  cat may decide they’d rather take their chances away from the constant explosions and stress. Here are some helpful steps you can take to prepare for a particularly flighty or anxious dog or cat:

  • Ensure Identification is Updated: Make sure your pets, whether they are cats or dogs, have identification tags with up-to-date information. For horses, consider marking a safety (breakaway) halter with your contact details and leaving it on your horse during this potentially distressing period.
  • Consider Microchipping: If your pets aren't already microchipped, consult with your veterinarian about microchipping. This simple procedure can significantly increase the chances of reuniting with your lost pets.
  • Update Microchip Registry: If your pets are already microchipped, ensure that your contact information in the microchip registry is current and accurate.
  • Take Updated Photos of Your Pet: Take current photos of all your cats, dogs, and horses, just in case they go missing. Having recent images will be valuable for creating flyers or sharing on social media to aid in their safe return.
  • Create a Safe Environment: Ensure that your environment is safe and secure for your pets. If your neighbors set off fireworks unexpectedly, evaluate whether your yard is secure enough to contain your pet. Similarly, assess the security of pasture fences for horses and other livestock. Make any necessary improvements to enhance the safety of the area.
  • Consider Behavioral Therapy and Medication: Last, but not least, if your pet has previously exhibited anxiety during this holiday or if you anticipate potentially harmful reactions to fireworks in general, consider behavioral therapy to desensitize your pet and reduce the risk of problems. In some cases, pets may benefit from medication. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist for guidance if you choose to pursue this option.

 A pet owner cleaning the yard after fireworks, making sure their pet is safe!

After 4th of July Cleanup with Pets in Mind

After the party it’s often easy to put off your after party clean up. Unfortunately, this can be quite dangerous and quite stressful for your pets. Dogs especially are creatures of routine and the same can be said for cats, after experiencing explosions and flashing lights for hours on end the last thing your pet needs is a messy environment that further stresses them out. Remember to check not just the inside of your house, but check your yard, your pastures if you have them, and any other area that could have firework debris. No fireworks happened over your home? That’s ok, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Double and triple check the following areas to ensure your pet is safe:

  • Check your yard: Carefully inspect your yard firework debris before allowing your pets outside to play or relax. Even if you didn't set off fireworks yourself, debris can make its way into your yard, where curious animals may pick it up to play with or eat.
  • Check your pastures: If you have acreage, be sure to check for and remove debris to protect horses and livestock. Most species of livestock can and will consume debris, leading to costly veterinary care!

Clean up after your guests: They won’t clean up after themselves! Check your home for food scraps or other debris that might be dangerous to pets, such as food skewers, sparkler sticks and wrappers, streamers, or any other kind of holiday item that may harm your pet.