Fireworks Anxiety: A Vet's Guide to Safeguarding Pets and Horses
Picture this: bursts of vibrant colors light up the night sky; laughter and awe fill the air. It's a time of celebration, but amidst the revelry, our four-legged friends experience a different reality.
By Dr. Keaton Massie
Fireworks are a fun part of human celebrations, but animals don’t find it so much fun. While it's party time for you, it's panic time for them. Even if your pet is not afraid of fireworks, you should still take precautions to ensure they are safe during these times. In this brief article, I’ll be sharing some tips to help you handle their anxiety and keep them safe. Come with me.
Understanding their Fear
Let’s step into their paws for a moment. Imagine how alarmed you’d be if you were suddenly woken by loud noises and bright lights without knowing why. These loud noises and bright flashes can trigger fear and panic in animals, leading to stress-related health issues. Dogs, cats, and horses, in particular, have acute hearing, making them more susceptible to loud noises from fireworks.
Horses, for example, possess a natural instinct to distance themselves from stressful or alarming situations. Fireworks can make them bolt or attempt to jump over fences to escape, leading to potential injuries. We have to empathize with their anxiety and take measures to ease their distress.
What you should do before and during fireworks season
Ensure you’re well prepared for upcoming fireworks displays in your vicinity by gathering information about the dates and locations of local fireworks events. Sometimes fireworks are used to commemorate occasions other than the Fourth of July, like New Year's or weddings, so you should be vigilant about public notices for such events. I advise horse owners to establish a friendly rapport with neighbors and inform them about their horses, emphasizing the need to be aware of any planned fireworks displays.
Create a Safe Haven
Prepare a safe environment for your pets and horses during fireworks displays. Find a calm and secluded space in your home where your pets can retreat, such as a basement or a quiet room. Arrange this area to be comfortable with their favorite bedding, toys, and familiar scents. In the week leading up to the fireworks, gradually introduce your dogs or cats to this space so they come to associate it with a quiet and enjoyable experience.
When it comes to horses, the best course of action depends on their usual living arrangements. Horses accustomed to sleeping outdoors should be left in the field during fireworks displays, as altering their routine can be distressing. However, if your horses are usually stabled, it is recommended to relocate them to their stable well before the fireworks begin. Ensure they have enough hay to munch on during this period.
Noise Dampening Techniques
Close all windows and draw curtains to minimize the sound and light. Creating a soothing atmosphere with background noise, such as playing soft music from a television or radio, can help distract your pets or stabled horses. For dogs, you might also consider using noise-canceling headphones specifically designed to reduce noise sensitivity.
Identification and Microchipping
The startling noises of fireworks can cause animals to flee in panic. In the unfortunate event that they escape, proper identification greatly increases the chances of finding them. Update their tags with current contact information and consider microchipping as a permanent form of identification. Having a recent photograph of your pet can also prove to be extremely useful in these situations.
Exercise and Stimulation
You should try to physically and mentally engage your pets before the fireworks begin. Taking dogs for a long walk or playing with cats using interactive toys will help expend excess energy and provide a sense of calmness. Similarly, horses should be given ample time to exercise and graze, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
Seek Professional Advice
It is important to seek advice from your veterinarian if your horse or pet has a negative history with fireworks or if you anticipate severe anxiety or phobia in them. Your vet will offer helpful tips and, if necessary, prescribe mild sedatives or anti-anxiety medications. These medications should only be used under veterinary supervision and as a last resort.
Your veterinarian may also suggest natural or pharmaceutical calming remedies, such as herbal supplements, pheromone diffusers, or anxiety wraps, to help ease anxiety in your pets.
Finally, on the day after the fireworks, take the time to inspect your yard or pasture for any fireworks debris or food scraps that could be harmful to pets. You should also check your horses for any cuts or injuries that may have occurred during the fireworks.
It is our responsibility to keep our furry companions safe during fireworks celebrations. By following the tips I listed above, you can make fireworks season a joyful time for everyone. Do you have any further questions about dealing with anxiety in pets and horses? Feel free to reach out to me below.