July Fourth is a time for fun in the sun and eating good food with friends and family. While the celebratory atmosphere is something you excitedly anticipate, the commotion may distress your pet. When your pet experiences extreme anxiety, the effects can be not only psychological but also physiological, including increased heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels, and delayed wound healing. Your pet also can suffer from stress-induced colitis, and cats can develop stress-induced feline idiopathic cystitis, so minimizing your pet’s anxiety is paramount. The south Austin veterinarians at Oliver Animal Hospital want to provide tips to keep your pet calm and secure.

Pet Dare #1: Bolt out the door as soon as your human’s back is turned

Your pet can easily panic and bolt when you are distracted. Ensure they have a fitted collar and accurate identification tags. Microchipping your pet is the best way to ensure you will be reconciled if your pet goes missing. Take your pet’s picture so you will have a current photo to post around the neighborhood if they get past your defenses. 

Pet Dare #2: Crash the party

Your pet will be much happier and more comfortable in familiar surroundings than around loud, unknown people. 

  • If you are hosting a party, ensure your guests know not to let your pet slink out any door. Post notes on doors to remind you and your guests to keep a watchful eye out for your crafty pet. 
  • Providing a safe zone for your pet in an interior room will prevent them from hatching an escape plan. Ensure they have food, clean water, and some of your recently worn clothing to keep them calm. Providing a food puzzle toy can help distract your pet from your absence. 
  • Play music at a moderate level to help obscure outdoor noises.
  • If your pet becomes extremely upset during fireworks displays, consider staying home, to help keep them from harming themselves. Your presence will calm your pet, and treats or playtime may help distract them from the commotion.

Pet Dare #3: Become the hot dog eating champion

A sudden change in diet, especially one that involves rich, fatty foods, can cause your pet severe gastrointestinal upset. Also, many common foods are dangerous for your pet, including coffee, chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, dairy products, nuts, and alcohol. If your pet eats a toxic food, contact our Oliver Animal Hospital team or Animal Poison Control.

Your pet can be devious if they decide to steal a prohibited treat, and could accidentally ingest a foreign object, such as plastic wrap, while scavenging in the garbage. Keep all food and garbage containers sealed and out of your pet’s reach. Your pet needing emergency surgery is not a good way to cap off the festivities. 

Pet Dare #4: Show no fear when you face fireworks

If your pet has an aversion to firework noise, they may benefit from desensitization and counterconditioning.

  • Play firework noise softly near your pet. If they remain calm, offer them a high-value treat or playtime while the noise plays. The sound must precede the treat.
  • Over several days or weeks, depending on your pet’s comfort level, gradually increase the volume during these sessions.
  • If your pet becomes stressed, decrease the volume back to a safe level and offer a treat when they become calm.
  • At the next meeting, start the volume at the safe level and make more gradual increases until your pet is acclimated to the noise.

If your pet responds to noise with fear, do not show them excess attention, which they may misconstrue as rewarding acceptable behavior. Your pet is not misbehaving, and punishing your pet is counterproductive, and could make the situation worse. Forcing your pet to experience the frightening situation is also ineffective, and they could be injured trying to avoid the situation.

Pet Dare #5: Break into the happy drugs

If your pet’s reaction to firework displays is excessive, and they have not responded to your attempts to mitigate the issue, ask our south Austin veterinarians if medication would be appropriate. Your pet may benefit from a mild sedative or anti-anxiety medication. Always speak to a veterinary professional before giving your pet any medication.

Pet Dare #6: Win the scavenger hunt and eat your findings

Firework debris can drift into your yard from neighborhood displays. Fireworks contain dangerous substances, such as black powder, potassium nitrate, arsenic, and other heavy metals, which are extremely toxic and dangerous to your pet if ingested.

July Fourth should be a fun, happy time. Follow our advice to help ensure your pet has a fear-free experience. If you would like to discuss your pet’s anxiety issues before the upcoming celebration, contact the team at Oliver Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.