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Fireworks Safety for Pets: Tips to Keep Them Calm and Secure

Updated: Jun 28

As summer arrives, so do the celebrations that come with it - including holidays, parties, and, of course, fireworks. While humans might enjoy the displays and the excitement of fireworks, our pets often do not: the loud noises and bright flashes can be overwhelming and very frightening for them.


It's important to take precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of your pet around holidays when fireworks are likely. By preparing in advance, you can help minimize your pet’s anxiety and keep them safe during the fireworks season.


Before we go any further, though, let’s start with an important reminder:

Please do not take pets to firework shows.

We understand everyone wants to enjoy great times with their pets but it does not give them any place or space to get away from the danger flooding them from above (as they see it from their perspective - remember, they don’t understand the entire situation, like we do) and could lead to disastrous outcomes. 



Why Are Fireworks Such a Big Deal for Pets? 


Fireworks can be particularly distressing for pets for several reasons related to their sensory perceptions and instincts - resulting in increased fear, stress, anxiety, and discomfort. 


Common signs of fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) in pets include:


  • Trembling or shaking

  • Hiding or trying to escape

  • Excessive barking or meowing

  • Pacing or restlessness

  • Panting or drooling


Recognizing these signs early can help you take steps to comfort your pet before their anxiety escalates.


Here are some key reasons why fireworks can be so upsetting to pets:


1. Heightened Sensitivity to Sound

Pets, especially dogs and cats, have much more sensitive hearing than humans. The loud bangs and whistles of fireworks can be extremely startling and even auditorily painful for them. The sudden and unpredictable nature of these noises can trigger intense fear and anxiety.


2. Lack of Understanding

Unlike humans, pets do not understand the concept of fireworks or why they are happening. The loud noises and bright flashes seem random and threatening, leading to confusion and panic.


3. Fight-or-Flight Response

The loud sounds and vibrations caused by fireworks can trigger a pet’s fight-or-flight response. This natural instinct is meant to protect them from perceived threats, but in the case of fireworks, it often results in frantic behavior, such as running away, hiding, or destructive actions.


4. Changes in Environment

Fireworks often coincide with changes in the environment, such as parties, gatherings, or people behaving unusually (e.g., cheering, clapping). These changes can add to a pet’s stress, especially if they are not used to such disruptions in their routine.


5. Visual Stimuli

In addition to the loud noises, the bright flashes and sudden changes in light can be startling for pets. The combination of auditory and visual stimuli can be overwhelming.


6. Smells and Vibrations

Fireworks produce strong smells from gunpowder and other chemicals. Pets’ keen sense of smell can make these odors particularly pungent and alarming. Additionally, the vibrations from loud fireworks can be unsettling, especially for pets with a strong sense of touch.


7. Previous Negative Experiences

Pets that have had previous negative experiences with loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, may have developed a conditioned fear response. Each subsequent exposure can reinforce their anxiety and fear.


8. Looking for Safety

When pets are scared, their natural instinct is to find a safe place to hide. However, if they are on a leash outside or in an area where they cannot escape from the noise for a safer-feeling place, it can increase their stress and sense of helplessness.


9. Separation Anxiety

Some pets suffer from separation anxiety, and if fireworks occur when their owners are not home, it can exacerbate their fear and anxiety. The absence of their trusted human can make the situation even more frightening

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10. Potential for Injury

In their panic, pets may try to escape from the noise by running away, which can lead to injuries or getting lost. Additionally, they might harm themselves while trying to hide or destroy objects in their frantic state.


Understanding these reasons can help you take appropriate measures to help your pets feel safe and secure during fireworks displays. By preparing in advance and using calming techniques, you can help mitigate some of the stressors of fireworks for your pet.



Can Fireworks Hurt Dogs' and Cats' Ears?


Yes, fireworks can potentially hurt dogs' and cats' ears due to their heightened sensitivity to sound.


Dogs have a much wider hearing range than humans, picking up frequencies between 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz, while we hear from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. This means they can detect much higher-pitched sounds that we can't hear. Loud noises, such as fireworks, can be perceived as much louder and more intense for dogs, making what might be merely uncomfortable for us actually painful for them.


Cats have an even more sensitive hearing range, detecting frequencies from 48 Hz to 85,000 Hz. Like dogs, they can hear higher-pitched sounds and perceive loud noises as much louder. The sudden, explosive sounds of fireworks can be extremely distressing for them.


Additionally, the potential for pain and discomfort is significant. Prolonged exposure to loud noises like fireworks can cause acoustic trauma or temporary hearing loss in pets. While rare, extreme noise levels can damage the inner ear structures. The intensity of fireworks can also cause ear pain, leading to behaviors such as head shaking, ear scratching, or vocalizing in distress.


If you are thinking about taking your pet somewhere close to fireworks, or having your own at-home display, please reconsider, for their sake. 


Here are some at-home tips, to help keep your furry family member more comfortable during fireworks:



Tips to Keep Pets Safe and Comfortable During Fireworks


Luckily, there are a number of things you can do, to help keep your pets safe and calm during fireworks. Here are some general guidelines, as well as some species-specific tips for both dogs and cats.


General Tips for Both Dogs and Cats: 


  1. Leave Them Home! Please do not take your pets to firework shows. These events do not provide a safe space for them away from potential danger - and can lead to disastrous outcomes.

  2. Keep Them Indoors: Ensure your pets stay indoors during fireworks. Close windows and doors to reduce noise and prevent them from escaping. 

  3. Plan Ahead: If you have a pet that dislikes loud noises, or the fireworks are close to you, call ahead of time so that we can make sure you have the right dose of calming medication for your pet’s situation. 

  4. Use White Noise: Turn on the TV, play calming music, or use a white noise machine to help mask the sound of fireworks. 

  5. Stay Calm: Your behavior can influence your pet's anxiety levels. Stay calm and offer gentle reassurance.

  6. Avoid Leaving Them Alone: If possible, stay home with your pets during fireworks to provide comfort and reassurance.

  7. Update Identification Tags/Chips: Ensure your pet is microchipped and wears a collar with an updated ID tag in case they escape. And be sure you are watching doors carefully, especially if you are having people over and there’s more going on than usual.


For Dogs:


  1. Create a Den-Like Environment: Dogs often feel safer in a small, enclosed space. Consider using a crate with a blanket draped over it or setting up a quiet corner with their bed and favorite toys.

  2. Exercise Beforehand: Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day. A long walk or a vigorous play session can help tire them out.

  3. Use Calming Support: Products like Thundershirts can apply gentle, constant pressure that may help some dogs feel more secure and calm. Pheromone sprays, collars, and plugins (like ThunderEase) can help your dogs feel more calm and relaxed. 

  4. Interactive Toys: Provide puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys to keep their mind engaged and distract them from the noise.

  5. Training Techniques: Reinforce basic obedience commands such as "sit," "stay," and "come" to help manage their behavior during stressful situations.

  6. Background noise: Background noise, such as music or repetitive calming sounds like oceans and white noise, can be used to drown out louder, sudden sounds.


For Cats:


  1. Provide Hiding Spots: Cats often prefer to hide when they are scared. Make sure they have access to safe hiding places like under the bed, inside a closet, or in a covered cat bed.

  2. High Perches: Cats feel safer when they can observe their surroundings from a height. Ensure they have access to high perches or shelves.

  3. Calming Pheromones: Use pheromone diffusers like Feliway, which release calming chemicals that can help reduce anxiety in cats.

  4. Engage with Toys: Offer interactive toys such as feather wands or laser pointers to distract and engage your cat during fireworks.

  5. Maintain Routine: Cats are creatures of habit. Try to keep their routine as normal as possible, including regular feeding times and play sessions.

  6. Soothing Background Noise: Cat TV, background music, and other ambient noises can help create a soothing environment for your pet.


By following these strategies for dogs and cats, you can better address their specific needs and help them stay safe and calm during fireworks.



Consult Your Vet for Severe Anxiety


If your pet experiences severe anxiety during fireworks, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian. Our clinic is here to help you find the best solutions to manage your pet’s stress. We can discuss various options, including behavioral strategies, natural calming aids and, if necessary, prescription medications tailored to your pet’s specific needs.

 

If you need fear, anxiety, or stress support for your pet, please call in advance of the event so we can try different doses and/or options to find the right fit!

Don’t hesitate to call us to schedule a consultation and get personalized advice to ensure your pet’s well-being during fireworks and other loud events. Your pet’s health and comfort are our top priorities, and we’re here to support you every step of the way.


Less-Stressful Fireworks


Preparing your pet for fireworks and loud noises involves understanding their fear, taking preventive measures, and providing comfort during and after the event. By following these steps, you can help your pet feel safer and more secure. 


If you have any concerns or need personalized advice, don't hesitate to reach out to your vet. Ensuring your pet’s safety and comfort during fireworks not only helps them cope better but also strengthens your bond with them. Take the necessary precautions, and both you and your pet can enjoy a less-stressful fireworks season.






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