By Dr. Jack Stephens, a veterinarian and founder of pet insurance in the U.S. in 1981. Dr. Stephens leads the Pets Best Insurance team of pet lovers as president.
If your neighborhood is anything like mine, the booms and bangs of the Fourth of July celebration start a week before the official holiday. Every summer, pet owners are told to be mindful of pet health and safety during this holiday.
By following the simple tips below, you can prevent your pet from becoming what many animal shelters call a “July 4th pet,” or a pet that becomes frightened, runs away and ends up in a shelter.
1. Keep your pets in a quiet room.
When fireworks start going off in your neighborhood, make sure your pets are safely confined in a quiet, escape-proof area. Drawing the blinds and turning on a radio can help muffle the noise. If you’re celebrating at home, don’t assume your dogs and cats will be okay outside just because you’re there. The sudden pop of a firecracker could send them running.
2. Don’t console a frightened pet.
It sounds counterintuitive and while there is debate over the issue, consoling a frightened pet could reinforce the fearful behavior by essentially saying, “You have a reason to be afraid.” Instead, make sure your pet is in a safe area and go about your normal business. Your reaction to the fireworks will show your pet there’s nothing to fear. You can also distract your four-pawed friend with a toy and praise him or her for non-fearful behavior, like tail-wagging.
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3. Make sure your pet is properly identified.
Frightened pets are much stronger than we think, and an ordinarily calm dog can bolt and break free from a leash or jump from a car with little warning. If an unexpected bang causes your dog or cat to run, a proper collar, tags and/or microchip can help you have peace of mind.
4. If you have a high-stress pet, consult your veterinarian.
If your pet usually reacts fearfully to loud sounds like thunder or garbage trucks, consult your veterinarian about how to reduce your pet’s anxiety. The anxiety is not good for your pet’s health, and your veterinarian should be able to provide helpful guidelines and information.
5. On the big night, leave your pets at home, inside.
Your city’s fireworks display might be at your dog’s favorite park, but he won’t like it much when the ground shakes from explosives. Before you leave, make sure your pets are safely inside an escape-proof area. Don’t underestimate the skills of a scared dog – there have been accounts of dogs pushing open doors and digging under fences to get away. Loose and scared, the potential for dogs and cats to get into an accident or get injured increases greatly. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but having pet insurance coverage for your dogs and cats can help in the event something does happen.
Most dog and cat owners consider their pets to be part of their families, and it’s no fun when we have to exclude them from family events. But the 4th of July is one time pet parents really ought to put their own feelings aside and do what’s best for the safety and health of their dogs, cats and all pets.
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