July 4th is next week, and for many dog and horse owners, that means much angst and concern for our favorite four-legged friends. From an animal’s perspective, fire–works are loud and unexpected. Pets and horses can get extremely frightened, and can cause damage to your house, injure themselves, or even flee and run away.
There are more reported lost dogs around this holiday than any other time of the year. The more we can control their environment the safer we can keep them. When the Fourth of July rolls around each year, I make sure to be prepared and have a game plan for my dogs during any nearby firework shows.
Tips for Horse Owners:
- Wherever possible, get in touch with your neighbors to find out if they plan to let off fireworks. If they do, explain the dangers and ask them to set fireworks off in a direction that is well away from your animals. Knowing in advance when fireworks are likely to be set off enables you to prepare.
- Decide whether to stable your horse or leave it in the field. It is sensible to keep your horse in its familiar environment, in its normal routine, with any companions to make it feel secure. If it is usually stabled, keep it stabled. If it is normally out in the field, keep it there as long as it is
safe, secure and not close to the firework display area.
- If stabled, check thoroughly for anything that could cause potential injury such as protruding nails and string.
- If your horse is to stay in the field, check that fencing is secure and that there are no foreign objects lying around that they might injure themselves if they run around.
- Ensure that you, or someone experienced, stays with your horse if you know that fireworks are being set off.
- If it is absolutely necessary for you to leave your horse in the care of another person during a firework display, then be sure to leave clear instructions and contact details for both you and your vet should any problems arise.
- If you know your animal will be stressed, talk to your vet about sedation or perhaps consider moving your horse for the night.
- Playing music on a radio positioned outside the stable can often mask sudden noise, distract attention and be soothing.
- Try to remain calm yourself and keep positive, as horses will sense unease in a person and this may make things worse if the horse is startled.
- It may seem common sense but be aware of your own safety; a startled horse can be dangerous so do not put yourself at risk when trying to deal with a spooked animal.
Tips for Pet owners
- Do not bring your pets to a fireworks display. They do not understand the
sounds, sights or smells of fireworks. This unfamiliar show can stress even the most socialized dog. They are safest at home in a familiar setting.
- Keep your animals inside. Keeping horses in a barn or pets in an air-conditioned area can help keep them calm and relaxed in the July heat. Being inside also helps mute the noise, and substantially reduces the risk of them getting loose and running off.
- Provide a safe space. Dogs find comfort in small spaces when they are nervous. If your dog is crate trained, that is the best place for them during fireworks. If they aren’t comfortable in a crate, moving their dog bed into a small area, such as a bathroom or closet can be beneficial.
- Eliminate visual stimulation. Close any curtains or drapes so the dog cannot
see the fireworks. Covering their crate can also be beneficial to keeping them calm.
- Update identification information. If your dog does manage to get loose during fireworks, having an address and phone number on an ID tag makes getting them home safely much easier. Having your dog microchipped is also a good way to identify them. Some areas are providing free microchips prior to July 4th in preparation for scared wandering pups.
- Keep them busy. Giving your dog something to do will help keep their mind off the fireworks. If they enjoy chewing on bones, chews, or a Kong toy, these are all great options to help keep them calm and relaxed.
- Invest in a tactile wrap. If your dog is inconsolable during fireworks, there are several wraps designed to reduce anxiety in dogs. These can also be great during thunderstorms, travel, or any other stressful activity.
July 4th is a fun and exciting holiday to celebrate our independence, but it is unfortunately one our animals need to sit out. Extreme stress is hard on dogs and horses, and it’s our responsibility to keep them safe during fireworks season. With the proper tools and information, we can all keep them as calm and comfortable as possible.