Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy 4th of July

We're just days away from celebrating Independence Day so it's time to go through your home safety checklist. First and foremost, know your dog! If you have brought a new dog (or any pet for that matter) home in the past year it is probably best to ensure that someone is going to be home to supervise their reaction to the inevitable fireworks and firecrackers that are going to be set off for the 4th of July.

Dr. Ilana Reisner at the University of Pennsylvania School fo Veterinary Medicine reports that:

Dogs can respond with profound fear to loud, booming noises such as thunder or fireworks. In fact, some dogs appear to develop a worsening fear over time that eventually is characterized as a phobia. Noise-phobic dogs can respond with extreme efforts to escape the noise. What starts as mild signs of distress, such as pacing, trembling and panting, can develop into chewing and digging at points of exit, particularly if the dogs are alone at home. It is not unusual for unsuspecting owners to come home to extraordinary destruction of doorways, windows and other routes of "escape" Dogs with severe noise phobias have even been known to chew through drywalls and jump through plate glass windows.

How can you tell if your dog is having an adverse reaction to fireworks? Generally you will see any of the following behaviors: panting, pacing, trembling, and clinginess.

Here are some recommendations for helping your dog to cope.

1. Do not take your dog out for any of the Independence Day festivities. Even if fireworks do not normally upset them the cumulative effect of the percussion of explosions, the crowds of people, the excited voices and exposure to new places can cause unforeseen dismay in your pet. It is best to leave them safely at home.
2. Close the doggie door! On days like the 4th of July you HAVE to close it. While your pet may not have shown you how easily they can escape from your yard the stress of the holiday may be the encouragement they need make their escape. Once in "flight" mode your best friend may run and run and run until exhaustion.
3. If you already know that your pet is upset by fireworks make an appointment with your vet to discuss options. While we should all hesitate to medicate our pets unnecessarily it is better that they are medicated and safe that paniked and injure themselves in the process.
4. Did you keep up on crate training when you brought your dog home? Great! Then set the crate up again tonight and start feeding them in it. A crate will provide you dog with a safe place in your home to retreat to if they get upset and should the noise and chaos cause a little incontinence at least it is contained in one area.
5. Separate your pets! Many of us have a lot of love to give so if you have a multi-pet household you should take measures to protect them from each other. Yes, I know they've lived together forever and have never had a problem before but perhaps you have some new neighbors or have moved to a new house. If there is something new this year that makes this 4th of July especially stressful you can not know how your animals will react. They could startled at precisely the wrong moment and get bitten out of fear.
6. Check their collar and identification. Make sure that the collar is nice and snug so that if you buddy somehow escapes they can be identified and returned to you.

If you are planning on being home remember that in times to stress you should avoid the impulse to comfort your pets. Under these conditions comforting them only serves to reinforce the behavior. The best thing to do is to try to distract them and if that doesn't work then encourage them to find a safe place to hide. While we tend to believe it is best to confront our fears but if your dog or cat chooses to hide at least you know where they will be and so long as they feel safe the will not get hurt. Sometimes music can help to distract your pets from the fireworks or at least reduce their impact.

Play it safe and happy 4th of July!

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