Traditional Holiday Festivities Can Be a Frightening Time for Household Pets - Tips to ease your dog into the summer months

July 2, 2015

The upcoming Fourth of July holiday and an abundance of outdoor activities during hot-weather summer months should make dog owners take a cautionary approach to how they handle their pets.

Many dogs react poorly and show signs of anxiety when in the vicinity of fireworks -- even if they are securely indoors when they hear loud pyrotechnics during this time of the year, said Dr. Donna Alexander, Administrator, Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control.

If you are aware that your dog becomes overly anxious during the fireworks, locate a cool, quiet area in your home away from the hustle and bustle, such as in the basement, and make it comfortable for your pet, Dr. Alexander said. Acclimate your pet to his/her quiet zone early so that they will think of that area as their sanctuary when the fireworks begin.

Creating this comfort zone might involve setting aside an area with pillows and a radio with soothing music, but dogs who show obvious fear at the sound of fireworks may need additional interventions. Signs of this fear or anxiety might include excessive salivation, pacing, shivering, seeking human comfort, vocalization, inappropriate urination, diarrhea and increased seizure activity if previously diagnosed with epilepsy.

Commercially available swaddling devices work on some animals but often prove more effective against the lower pitch rumbles of thunder and lightning and ineffective against the high-pitched sharp cracks of fireworks.

Watch your animal before the 4th as people start setting off firecrackers prior to the actual holiday, Dr. Alexander said. See where your animal seeks quietude and make that their space.  If they seek your comfort, locate a place of solitude for the animal and leave comfortable articles with your scent in that area.

Dr. Alexander also pointed out that summer months are the most likely time for animals to escape from their owner. Among the reasons:

  • If traveling with your pet, the dog or cat may not be comfortable with new surroundings and become anxious or inquisitive of new smells and sounds. It is important to have a properly fitting collar or harness or properly working, comfortable carrying case.
Have a strong leash and ensure that the person handling a dog is strong enough to hold them if they are startled or tempted to chase something. If you are having a cook-out where people will be opening doors frequently, your animals may become overly anxious or excited and want to participate or escape.  Make their sanctuary available to them. Inform guests that you have a dog or cat that may want to run out of the front or back door.  Make sure that your pet wears a collar with rabies tags attached. An animal is more likely to receive assistance from the appropriate personnel when they carry some form of identification.