Every year I post something about keeping pets safe during the Fourth of July celebrations. I do this, because Independence Day is not a time of celebration for our pets…and yes, I speak from experience. My dogs, Scout and Ziggy, become extremely stressed when the pops and whistles start erupting throughout the neighborhood. While it’s a time of celebration for us, the fireworks that we humans find so thrilling can drive pets, especially dogs, into a state of utter panic. The explosions (even miles away), the high-pitched swoosh of rockets climbing into the sky, the flashes of light – these can all be overwhelming sensory assaults. If your pet is terrified of fireworks, you probably know the signs: He cowers, trembles in fear, pants and paces, or hides and appears disoriented. Some dogs become so frightened they take drastic action. They can crash through a screen door, jump out of a window or leap a fence.
Every year, Portland animal shelters have their hands full dealing with lost dogs that bolted on July 4th, cats that have gone missing and anxious owners looking for them. Sadly, some lost pets are never recovered. There are ways to make July 4th safer and less stressful for pets. Keep your pet inside as much as possible on July 4th (and for a few days before and after if your pet is extremely phobic about fireworks). If you find a stray animal, please keep them with you until your local animal shelter is open and ready to receive them.
For me, the Thunder Shirt has been a godsend (here’s a picture from last year of Scout and Ziggy…). You can find the Thunder Shirt at most pet stores.
In addition, the Oregon Humane Society urges pet owners to follow the suggestions below to ensure their pets will not run off.
1) Make sure all pets, even indoor-only cats, are wearing a collar with an identification tag that includes your name and telephone number. A microchip is also a good idea. Terrified animals will become confused and disoriented. They may end up miles from home or deep under a neighbor’s porch. This simple precaution will save a lot of anguish, time, and energy.
2) Fireworks are on sale now – that means kids may begin shooting them off early. Walk dogs in the early evening – well before nightfall – to prevent undue stress from noisy fireworks.
3) During neighborhood firework displays, keep all pets safely inside. Dogs, and cats, who are agitated should be put into a bathroom or other room with no windows, with the door secure. Remember screen doors will not keep in a charging dog. Please do not take a dog to watch a large commercial firework display. This only increases the chances of him becoming lost in an unfamiliar area.
4) In extreme cases, check with your veterinarian about tranquilizers.
If your pet becomes lost during the holiday (or at any time):
1) Immediately check with your local animal control agency first.
2) Put up flyers with a photo and detailed description of the missing pet.
3) The Craigslist Website (http://portland.craigslist.org/) offers free lost and found pet postings.
4) Check around the neighborhood carefully. Lost cats have been found days later hiding under a bush in front of their owners’ homes. Try shaking their bowl of food to encourage them to come out of hiding. For dogs, expand the search area further than expected as a precaution. The Oregon Humane Society contains detailed information on what do to if you lost or found a pet, including links to county control agencies and tips for finding your missing pet.