Dr. Jennifer Challenger DVM, MPH

July is approaching, and with its arrival come the festivities that surround the Fourth of July. Many pet owners may already be familiar with the fear and anxiety that lightning and thunder from summer storms can cause in a number of pets. This fear of loud noises can become so intense that some pets become frantic and even destructive. Loud fireworks also can have the same effect. Along with the deafening noise of fireworks, there are also the cookouts and outdoor parties that can lead to stress for our pets. Some animals can develop vomiting, diarrhea or anorexia, as well as behavioral problems, such as urinating or defecating in the home, chewing up furniture or personal items and even breaking windows and doors.

I have several suggestions that may help during these stressful times. If you know that your pet will be upset by a large party or noisy fireworks, consider boarding him or her at your veterinarian’s office, where he or she will be in a controlled environment. If you prefer that your pet stays at home, you can set up a calm, safe area or allow the pet to stay in a quiet part of the house where guests are not permitted. For pets that tend to get frantic or destructive, it is best to confine them in a sturdy crate where they cannot hurt themselves or your property. Some animals feel like the sky is falling when they hear they hear thunder or fireworks and do best in a small area with four walls and a roof to provide some sense of security. For this reason, you may want to cover the pet’s crate with a sheet or set the crate up in a walk-in closet. If you are able to stay and sit with your pet, you can help to soothe and calm him or her, as well. And then there are those animals that may be so out of control that your veterinarian will have to prescribe a sedative. This, however, is a last resort, since you could end up with a ‘drunk,’ yet still very frightened pet.

Make sure your pets are safe as well as comfortable during any parties you host. As most parties and barbecues usually end with their own displays of fireworks and sparklers, make sure that both pets and small children are kept at a safe distance. If you are planning on setting up a fireworks display, be sure dogs are kept on leashes and cats are kept indoors. Proper disposal of fireworks is very important. Some can remain hot after they have been ignited, which can cause severe burns when handled. Also be especially cautious of the types of fireworks that are mobile once ignited. Using common sense and being aware of possible dangers when preparing for your celebration can keep stress to a minimum and allow everyone-including your pets-to enjoy the festivities and make it a memorable and safe celebration.