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Patricia Sherman: Holiday fireworks are no fun for pets

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Posted: Tuesday, July 4, 2017 9:30 am

Eighty percent of pet owners have owned a pet afraid of fireworks. This Fourth of July, fireworks displays will light up the skies before, during and for weeks after Fourth of July celebrations.

As we enjoy this holiday festivity, it’s important for us to remember that this can be a very traumatic time for our pets. Loud noises can frighten animals, causing them to panic and even run away from home. In fact, animal shelters across the country report a heavy increase in the number of lost animal companions after fireworks displays, and San Joaquin County is no exception.

Every year, dogs and cats escape from their yards or homes in fear during the holiday festivities. Some pets that become lost wind up at city shelters. Others are never found.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday for you and your pet. If your pet is a horse or other farm animal, make sure it has clean bedding and is inside the stable or barn or other safe area.

Always

Keep all of your pets safe indoors during fireworks displays. If you are going to be gone, prepare the house so that it becomes your pets’ safety zone.

It’s important to prepare it properly. Soften the noise by closing windows, curtains and blinds. Keeping a light on will calm your pet and make him feel more secure, rather than being left alone scared in a dark room.

Make the room cozy. Put down familiar, clean bedding somewhere pleasant such as under a table, on or behind a chair, etc. Add some familiar chew toys, scratch pads, balls and other toys to keep your pets amused and distracted.

If your animal is used to being crated, partially cover the kennel with a blanket to make it feel warm, and put in some familiar chew toys.

Turn on the TV or radio and turn up the volume — but not too loud — to help drown out some of the noise.

If you have more than one pet, be sure they don’t mind being confined in the same room, or select separate rooms for different pets. For example, dogs and cats will usually appreciate being kept separate.

Some animals can become destructive when frightened. Be sure to remove any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful if chewed. Remove any sharp items from the room in case your pet starts jumping or running around.

Provide water for your cat or dog and a litter box for cats. Be sure to feed them at their normal eating time.

Never

Never take your dog to a fireworks display. It’s usually hot. There are always large crowds. And the dogs really don’t enjoy it.

Never leave pets outside unattended, even if they are in a fenced yard or on a tether. Pets who normally wouldn’t try to leave the yard may panic and try to escape. Dogs may become entangled in their tethers or hang themselves, if they try to leap over a fence. To avoid injury, keep your pets indoors.

Identification

Make sure your pets are microchipped and are wearing a collar with current identification and tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned to you promptly.

Make sure your cat is wearing a break-away collar in case they get caught on something. Microchip your cat.

Take a current picture of your dog or cat with and without the collar on — sometimes people remove collars.

Other ways to help your pets

If you will not leave your pets inside the house or a safe garage and know that your pet is seriously distressed by the sounds of fireworks, consult with your veterinarian in advance. Your veterinarian may recommend a fast-acting anti-anxiety medication.

The key is to give the medications before the noise starts — they are less effective if you wait until the dog is already stressed.

In addition to the anxiety medication, provide a place in the yard that is more secure and has a calm, comfortable feeling, like a dog house with soft blankets as well as chew toys. Place the dog house on the patio and turn the entrance towards the house so that the fireworks can’t be seen.

After the fireworks are over

If, despite your best efforts, your pet does become lost, don’t panic. Ask neighbors to check inside their garages, yards, storage sheds, under cars and in the shrubbery at your home and throughout the neighborhood.

Go to the nearest park or school and check there.

Go to your local animal shelter to check the kennels. Fill out a lost pet report and look over the “found” reports. Lodi Animal Services posts photos of found pets on Facebook. Search lost pets online — especially on Nextdoor, Facebook and Craigslist.

Download and print lost animal flyers with your pet’s photo. Contact local rescues and lost and found websites to request they post your pictures and a description.

If your cats or dogs normally stay outside bring them inside for a few days after the Fourth of July. Many people set off fireworks for days and weeks after the holiday.

Call your police department and report people setting off fireworks after July 4 — fireworks are only permitted in Lodi on the Fourth itself. Some areas in Lodi had fireworks for months after July 4 last year, and again on New Year’s Eve.

If you know that your neighbors use fireworks ask them to show some concern for outside cats and dogs and not set off any more fireworks after the Fourth.

Do a yard sweep before letting your pets back outside. Collect any sparklers or firecrackers, as well as party items and broken objects. This will prevent your pet from being injured by unfamiliar objects from yours or you neighbors fireworks.

Keep your pets safe and happy this 4th of July!

Patricia Sherman is the president of Animal Friends Connection, a Lodi-based pet rescue nonprofit.

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