Help your pet cope with the booming sounds of Independence Day

By Dr. J.J. Rawlinson

The author is the Senior Manager of Community Partnerships and Welfare Initiatives and a veterinarian at Wallis Annenberg PetSpace, a one-of-a-kind community space in Playa Vista that is a unique mix of pet adoption center, educational programming destination and convening space for some of today’s top academics who study the human-animal relationship.

Residents may be noticing an influx of fireworks being set off in the recent weeks.

Though Marina del Rey canceled its official Fourth of July fireworks show to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, many neighborhoods are likely to witness smaller-scale shows from personal collections. These are occurring in the weeks prior and are likely to increase as we approach the holiday.

The ones most aware of this cacophony of sounds are your pets. While many of our dogs and cats can brush off or completely ignore the booms, there are quite a few pet owners who are currently consoling their companions, as they cower and shiver under the bed or sometimes even experience full-blown puppy panic attacks.

If you know your pet is reactive to loud, unpredictable noises, the best efforts to help them will be preventative. Take action in advance to prepare them and your home for the lights and sounds coming in the evenings. It’s much easier to help your pet avoid these fears, rather than trying to calm them back down once it starts.

• Make sure they are wearing collars and are microchipped, with current information on both. If a pet is scared enough to panic and try escaping, you’ll want their ID to help in a speedy return. It’s a common time for shelters to receive an influx of animals because of this situation.

• Speak with your veterinarian in advance to determine plans for your pet. They may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medication for noise aversion.

• Utilize calming sprays, like Adaptil and Feliway. These can help bring down the general level of anxiety that is stirred up by the loud noises.

• Consider purchasing a compression garment or ThunderShirt. These jacket-type items give gentle pressure and a swaddling effect around your pet, which can prove to be calming.

• Keep your windows and blinds closed. Some pets can get in such a state of fear that they will try to run, jump, climb, or dig to escape the sounds. Be sure they’re secure in your homes. The room they’re in shouldn’t allow for the flashing lights of the fireworks to be seen either.

• Give your dog a chew toy, Kong, or other exciting treats to keep them busy and distracted. If your pup is really busy on a good chew before the fireworks get really loud, they’ll stay more focused on the fun and tasty activity and pay less attention to outside distractions.

• Put a stereo or TV on in the room with the volume up to drown out other sounds. That white noise can help combat what’s happening elsewhere.

• If your dog is crate trained, put them in their crate and in a room further away from the source and general direction of the fireworks. Whether that’s the back of your home or a room with fewer windows, there’ll be more barriers to help keep them calm.

If every step of prevention is still resulting in a distressed dog or cat, you can make an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist, too. These are experts who specialize in animal behavior and can diagnose and prescribe medications if needed.

Remember that if your pet is afraid and decides to hide in a closet or under the bed, don’t try to remove them from these spaces. They could react negatively in fearful self-defense. Instead, stay with your stressed pet and provide comfort and companionship. They know that you’re safe and caring, so your presence could be a big help to calm them during their moment
of chaos.