Pets: The new fireworks law in Michigan could put pets on edge, but there's help to quell the anxiety from the noise
flickr photo by alyak
Summer is officially here, and it's a season filled with a lot of fun for us humans — but from a pet's vantage point, it can prove to be quite difficult — especially during Fourth of July and other gatherings.
Fireworks (and in some cases gunfire) are unfamiliar and frightening to pets of all species.
I'll admit, Independence Day isn't my favorite holiday, but only because of that. So many pets are frightened by the noise and lights associated with fireworks, and it's hard to see companion animals in such distress. As a result, I do spend a lot of time taking precautions to ensure the comfort and well-being of my charges. Surely those of you with pets can relate!
In case you weren't aware, if you share life with pets and they find all of the noises and lights associated with fireworks hard to deal with, your collective lives will probably get more challenging where fireworks are concerned due to some new legislation.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law into legislation in December that now allows louder, more powerful fireworks to be legal in Michigan.
As we've all experienced, the noise of fireworks doesn't occur just on July 4, and that can be challenging.
But sadly, this time of year — along with New Year's Eve — is one of the most prevalent times for missing pets, as many become frightened and dart out open doors. Injuries from coming into contact with fireworks can pose a threat during this time as well.
(The onslaught of extra people in the house — or lack thereof, if you're away — can bring on anxiety too, as can the noise that sometimes accompanies the festivities.)
Here are a few things to keep in mind, and tips to help keep pets safe, sound and happy:
- Make sure you have up-to-date photos of your pets. You probably have a lot of photos of your pets either around your home or floating around in your digital camera. Having a picture of each of your pets in different poses and settings could ensure that you'll be reunited with a lost pet. The Missing Pet Partnership offers tips on photographing your pet for the purpose of recovering them if they are lost.
- Be sure that your pet is microchipped. Click here to see how easily the procedure is done.
- Ensure that your pet is wearing a collar with clearly marked identification that includes the pet's name, your name, address and telephone number.
- If you're hosting a gathering and your pets have a tendency to be skittish with unfamiliar people, consider keeping them in an area of the home that will be undisturbed by anyone, with the door shut. In the case of a dog, a crate might be an added source of security. Play soothing music, talk radio or white noise to try and block out any unwanted noise that will cause anxiety. A free download for calming music is available here.
- If you find that there are fireworks or other loud noises are troublesome for your pet, consider using what I call "storm treats" to try and curb a negative association with the noise. Directions for playing a game involving storm treats are listed here. Also, a pressure wrap can be helpful. Swaddling and deep pressure have been proven to provide both humans and animals a sense of comfort. Temple Grandin, Ph.D. expands on the topic of deep pressure in animals. Some dogs can benefit from wearing a Thundershirt, or a snug-fitting T-shirt. The theory is that the sensation of deep pressure, (in this case a variation of it) around the torso primarily, or swaddling — modulates the central nervous system, producing a calming effect.
- Consider using T-Touch, an approach first developed for horses by Linda Tellington-Jones, and is used worldwide to address a number of issues, including noise phobias in canines.
- Try dog-appeasing pheromone, also referred to as DAP, a synthetic pheromone produced by lactating bitches. Undetectable and equally safe for anyone outside of the canine species, DAP has been effective in addressing anxiety of various forms for dogs and can be found in a spray form, a collar that is worn and replaced every four weeks or in a diffuser. You might recall my talking about Feliway, the feline version of the same pheromone. DAP helps to attain an overall sense of well being in dogs.
- Never force a companion animal to be present during a fireworks display. The noise, flashes of light and the smells can be confusing for pets. Scared pets can react by snapping or biting, creating a very unsafe situation for both human and pet.
The great thing about these specific suggestions is that they are easy to implement, and none of them have side effects. Depending on the severity of your pet’s discomfort when it comes to anxiety associated with fireworks, you can tailor a plan of action that works by trying one at a time, or perhaps more than one in tandem.
If your pet is sound sensitive and these other tips don't seem to help, you're not alone. It's advisable to consult with your veterinarian to prepare a treatment plan to make them as comfortable as possible.
Additionally, a quick inspection of your yard on a regular basis during this time of year is encouraged. Pieces of spent fireworks can land anywhere and curious pets, especially dogs, will readily pick them up and could possibly ingest them. I make a point to keep an eye out for used fireworks when I'm dog walking with a client.