Fireworks no fun for the nervous pets

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 17, 2021

It was the Friday night of the Fourth of July weekend and I had just sent my last bottle of antianxiety medication out the door.
Between fireworks and thunderstorms, this is a bad time of year for anxiety.
But it is not just dogs that are affected.
Not too long ago, I was working in my office.
I have a small window that allows light in, but since it looks out into the neighbor’s back yard it is high up.
Peacefully, I was typing away when I heard explosions from the back yard. I levitated out of my chair and was about to hit the deck when I realized from the next explosions that it was fireworks.
Even knowing what it was, I could not stay and work. I had to leave.
I did not see combat. I was prepared and did go into many law enforcement situations that were tense to say the least. Still, these fireworks bothered me.
From “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. It is normal to be afraid, sad, lost, and even angry when you’re in danger; that is a normal reaction to trauma. Most people who go through a trauma have some symptoms at the beginning, but they will start to fade.”
PTSD is when the danger threat is experienced without the imminent danger.
“No one knows why some people develop PTSD and others do not. PTSD is not a sign of weakness. PTSD can be a debilitating disorder, and the symptoms that come with PTSD can have a negative impact on a number of different areas in a person’s life.”
In real life, this means that a veteran with PTSD may have a severe fear reaction from the celebratory fireworks.
This severe fear reaction is the same that we see in some dogs. Cats have it also, but hide better and owners don’t notice as much.
Sometimes we will know the triggering event and sometimes they will seem to happen for no reason.
Many dogs will learn thunderstorm anxiety from their pack, canine or human.
We adopted a 10-year-old Schnauzer with thunderstorm anxiety. Because she moved in with five dogs and two humans who were not afraid of thunderstorms, she gradually worked through her fears.
Likewise, humans that are afraid of storms usually teach their pets to be afraid also.
Fireworks are a triple threat to pets.
Their primary sense is hearing and fireworks are loud. Flashes of light are unusual and cause added stress. Remember that a dog or cat’s sense of smell is a thousand times better than a human’s.
Burning chemicals can be smelt a long way away and can cause stress.
There seems to be an instinctual knowledge that burning is bad. (We certainly never taught Ranger that things burning on the stove were bad and he should wake us up. We also didn’t teach him to knock things on the stove and turn it on by himself while he was raiding.)
People with PTSD may need professional help. It is not a weakness and something that can be worked through. Likewise, pets may need professional help. We have various supplements, diets, thundershirts, calming caps and prescription meds that help dogs.
I’m not saying that fireworks should not happen.
They are fun and the Fourth of July is a pretty big deal. But there may be a few things you can do to help.
As a neighbor, you can help by letting folks know.
Confining your noise to a few nights a year is good.
If you know there is a pet with anxiety or know someone who is a veteran, let them know when you will be setting off fireworks.
Pets can be pre-medicated or crated to feel more secure and protected.
Maybe a heads up will help your veteran neighbor. You might even invite them over to watch. After all, veterans are patriotic and really like to celebrate also.
At least every crew mate that I had liked a good party.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. 606-928-6566

Email newsletter signup