by Carmen LeBlanc, MS, ACAAB, CPDT

July 4th means celebration of our independence, time with family and friends, grilling, (usually) good weather, and fireworks. But our pets don’t understand what all those booms and pops mean, so it can be a stressful or even terrifying for them. Here are some great tips for helping your dog and cat cope during the festivities:

  • Bring pets into the most interior room in your house, away from doors and windows.
  • Give them a place to hide, whether that’s behind your legs, under furniture, in a cupboard, or in a cozy cave you create with blankets and pillows.
  • Make it a movie or concert night, and muffle the noise with the TV or music turned way up.
  • Don’t hesitate to comfort and cuddle your dog or cat. Contrary to myth, comforting your pets will not increase their fear, any more than comforting children when they’re scared will increase their fear.
  • If you can find an area with no fireworks, get out of town to move terrified pets from the threat altogether.
  • Seek your veterinarian’s advice for medication if your pet’s fear is extreme, causing her or him to house soil, stop eating, or interfering with daily activities. Ask about anti-anxiety medications such as alprazolam (generic for Xanax) or diazepam (generic for Valium) rather than a sedative like acepromazine. “Ace” is no longer recommended by leading veterinary experts because it sedates but doesn’t actually reduce fear or anxiety. It’s a sort of chemical restraint that often makes pets’ fears worse the next time.
  • Prepare for the worst by ensuring that your pets have good identification like ID tags or microchips. Keep your dog on leash outside. If your pet escapes, begin your search right away. Plaster posters all around your neighborhood, and contact the Humane Society and Animal Control right away to report your missing pet.