Taking the fear out of Fourth of July for your furry friends this weekend

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(Photo: Courtesy Pxhere via MGN Online)

(WFXR) — For animal shelters across the country, July 5 is one of the busiest days of the year because so many pets are scared off by the sounds of fireworks, the number of strangers in their homes, and other elements of Fourth of July festivities.

According to an infographic shared by the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, more pets go missing on Independence Day than any other day of the year, but only 14 percent are returned to their families.

A huge reason for the spike in strays is noise anxiety! The ASPCA says one in five pets goes missing after being scared off by loud noises.

In addition, research found in Applied Animal Behavior Science in 2015 found that 21 percent of dogs are scared of fireworks, compared to 14 percent that are afraid of gunshots and eight percent afraid of thunderstorms.

If your pet regularly struggles with anxiety associated with loud noises, there are plenty of ways to keep them calm and safe this holiday weekend. Here are some tips from Angels of Assisi and the Roanoke Valley SPCA:

  • Work on desensitizing your pet to the noises that scare them. Play thunderstorm or firework noises at a low level and give them an extra special, long-lasting treat to keep them occupied while the noises are playing in the background. Over the course of several weeks, increase the volume of the noises, but make sure the dog is not showing signs of fear.
  • Work on crate training your pet. Many dogs feel comforted in a dark, enclosed area, but if your dog is not used to being in a crate, do not put them in there immediately before a triggering event because that can drastically increase their fear and anxiety.
  • Try out a Thundershirt or other pressure wrapping. Keep in mind, though, that some dogs need multiple exposures before the Thundershirt comforts them, so plan ahead!
  • Talk to your vet about your pet’s noise anxiety. Pheromone products can be helpful for anxious animals, but prescription medicine may also be needed to keep your pet safe and comfortable.
  • Keep your pet on a leash and/or inside on days you expect loud noises. Even a pet that normally stays on your property or within a fenced-in yard may run away or hide if they are afraid or panicking.
    • Keep them comfortable and tucked away in a familiar room or in their crate with the air conditioning on during the day of the fireworks show.
  • Get your pet a workout beforehand. Take them out for a walk, play fetch, or do any other safe activity to tire them out before the fireworks start.
  • Divert you pet’s attention from the festivities going on outside by giving them a new treat or toy to help distract them.
  • Drown out the noise by leaving the TV on and shutting all the windows, blinds/curtains, and doors.

“Local public animal shelters often receive an influx of stray pets during the Independence Day holiday weekend as animals are scared and run off due to the loud noises from firework displays,” said Denise Hayes, Chief Executive Officer of the Roanoke Valley SPCA. “We want to help keep pets and people together by sharing this important safety information.”

Besides fear of fireworks, there are some other potential Independence Day hazards to protect your pets from, which the American Veterinary Medical Association breaks offers advice for avoiding:

  • Make sure your pet is wearing an updated and visible ID tag on their collar and/or microchipped.
  • Take a current photo of your pet in case they get lost.
  • Exercise your pet earlier in the day before the festivities begin.
  • If you are leaving for parties, fireworks displays, parades, or other gatherings, leave your pet at home because the loud noises, unfamiliar places, and crowds can scare them away.
  • Consider keeping your pets in safe, escape-proof rooms, crates, or fenced-in areas away from the excitement if you plan on hosting parties or fireworks at home.
  • During cookouts, ask your guests to play with your pet away from the bonfire or the barbecue grill.
  • Keep charcoal, fireworks, sparklers, and glow sticks far away from pets.
  • Keep your pet inside if it’s extremely hot, but if you take your pet outside, make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water. Also, know the signs that your pet may be overheating.
  • Keep treats on hand for those who might want to give food to your pet in order to prevent your fur baby from eating toxic foods.
    • Some of these foods include grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, xylitol, macadamia nuts, chocolate, moldy foods, high fat foods, and alcohol.
  • Make sure to pick up any debris or scraps from your yard before letting your pet out to play or relax. Ingestion of fireworks, pool chemicals, lawn products, and certain human foods can cause issues ranging from an upset gastrointestinal system to serious illness.

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