De-stress your pet: Tips for keeping animals calm during fireworks

An attentive dog rests in the grass on Saturday. Experts from the Humane Society emphasize the importance of keeping your dog indoors on fireworks-heavy days. (Alex Masson | Collegian Media Group)

Fireworks are a fun and exciting way to celebrate the upcoming holiday, but for pet owners, they can be troublesome.

Many pets are afraid of the flashing lights and booming sound, and nobody likes to see their furry friend upset. Luckily, there are some helpful tips to keep your pets calm and feeling safe through the festivities.

Before the fireworks begin, make sure your pets have their needs met. They may be too scared to eat or drink when the displays start, so it is important to care for them proactively. The day before, try playing a recording of fireworks sounds on a speaker to try to normalize the sound for your pets.

Also, make sure that your pet has some form of identification. If they feel threatened, they could bolt and make it difficult for you to find them. Keeping a collar on them with a phone number will help you be reunited later if you become separated. For pets with severe anxiety, talk to a vet about solutions.

“There are medications that can help with the anxiety, both natural and pharmaceuticals,” veterinarian and 1999 K-State alumna Dr. Mary Hughes said.

The day of the fireworks, don’t act differently around your pets. Animals, especially dogs, are social creatures that understand when the energy of the people around them are tense or unhappy. It’s what makes them such great companions. If you’re calm, that will help your pets stay calm, too.

Next, try some kind of sound or music. White noise, a television or even your favorite music can lessen the impact of the booming sounds on your pets. Don’t try to drown out the fireworks; in fact, keep everything at a normal volume for your home. Your pets will receive comfort if things are continuing normally despite the noise.

If the fireworks are close enough for their light to flash in your home, close curtains and blinds to try to block out some of that light. Removing one stressing stimulus will make it easier for your pets to handle the sound of the fireworks.

From there, try distracting your pets with toys and treats.

“Try to redirect their behavior,” Dr. Hughes said. “Do your best not to tell them ‘it’s okay, it’s okay’ because this only reinforces the anxious behavior.”

You could also try using a ThunderShirt, which uses gentle pressure over your pet’s body to alleviate anxiety. If you don’t have the specific brand, you could try a small shirt or spandex top, depending on the size of your pet.

“ThunderShirts work sometimes,” Dr. Hughes said. “But each animals are individuals. What might work for one may not work for another.”

Trying out these tips will hopefully keep your pets feeling safe and loved throughout the displays and help people and animals enjoy the holiday to the fullest.

Hi there! I’m Leah Zimmerli, community desk co-editor, relentless optimist, and lover of big and small dogs. I’m a junior in political science and journalism from Overland Park, Kansas. I hope to bring you pieces that challenge you, that broaden your mindset, and help you learn more about your K-State community.