Dogs can hear really well. You may imagine how sensitive a dog is to firecrackers if they react by fleeing when they hear a food wrapper crinkling from another area of the house.
Fireworks generate a loud, sudden noise that many dogs find unsettling, much like thunder and lightning.
Most of the time, before fireworks are set off, people anticipate them. Many people eagerly anticipate igniting them or attending a fireworks display on July 4th.
Dogs, meanwhile, lack any kind of context. They see it as just another day, and when the obnoxious sounds and flashing lights begin, they have no idea why.
Dogs can’t get acclimated to the loud noises and flashing lights since they sound and look different every time and appear at seemingly random intervals.
Many dogs see fireworks as a threat due of their noise and unpredictable nature. Their fight-or-flight reflex is set off by this. Your dog can bark in response to the noises or attempt to flee and hide. They might also exhibit other symptoms of anxiousness, such as agitation, panting, pacing, or whimpering.
Desensitize Your Dog
Get your dog used to the sound of explosions first. This YouTube video is a wonderful place to start!
Play with your dog as the movie or sounds of fireworks play! Give your dog some toys and treats to start connecting fireworks sounds with enjoyable things.
Provide Your Dog With a Safe Space
When frightful fireworks go off, some dogs will feel soothed by having their own private hiding place. Think about getting a container (we have a list of the best crates for separation anxietythese will serve as great comfort crates for other stressors as well).
For your anxious dog, create a true comfort den by including some warm blankets, a crate bed, and a few of their favorite toys.
Distract Your Dog With Tasty Toys
Instead of worrying, give your dog something to do! To keep him busy, give him a satisfying chew toy or a dog puzzle toy. Filling a Kong with delicious wet food and freezing it is another common dog distraction technique; your dog will spend the next few hours licking at it.
When they are extremely frightened, some dogs may not be interested in eating, but other dogs may be. If you start doing this with your dog, it will further reinforce the idea that fireworks are enjoyable.
Update Your Dog’s Collar & Tags
Dogs frequently run away and bolt during fireworks out of terror. Since they spend the majority of the day making phone calls and attempting to reunite lost pets with their anxious owners, July 5th is really the busiest day of the year for animal shelters.
In case he escapes, make sure your dog has an ID tag with your contact information and a collar that fits properly. When it comes to preventing your dog from getting lost, having contact information available might make all the difference since anyone who discovers your dog might be able to quickly bring you two back together.
In order for shelters to keep an eye out for your dog, it’s a good idea to have fresh images of your dog on available.
Consider equipping your dog with a dog GPS tracker if you are aware of their propensity to flee at the sound of fireworks. This way, you can find them once things have settled down.
Exercise Your Pet
Try to take your dog for a lengthy walk earlier in the day to tire him out. According to the proverb, a happy dog is a tired dog. Tuckering your dog out can help him feel less worried and may help him not feel too anxious later when the fireworks go off.
Just remember to follow the fundamental safety precautions for summer when working out outdoors. An excellent morning walk is advised!
Try a Thundershirt (Or Make Your Own)
The Thundershirt, a wraparound vest your dog wears that is believed to rapidly calm them down by applying moderate pressure, is a product that many owners vouch for.
Purchase the official Thundershirt or attempt to create your own DIY version with an ace bandage or scarf. To learn more about whether or not the Thundershirt helps relieve your dog’s anxiety related to fireworks, make sure to read our thorough hands-on review.
Leave the TV or Radio On
When it was noted earlier that playing firework sounds could help your pet become desensitized, it’s also a good idea to keep the radio or TV on if you anticipate being outside while the fireworks are going off. Your pet can be distracted by other noises instead of the loud fireworks.
While some dog owners claim that their canines love the calming sounds of talk radio or NPR, others claim that their canines seem to enjoy classical music. Several choices include
Can a dog get past its aversion to fireworks?
By scheduling training sessions all year long, well in advance of occasions like the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, you can assist dogs that are terrified of pyrotechnics in learning to cope with them.
Give your dog a series of little, delectable dog treats and lots of praise when they remain calm as you first play a fireworks sound effect (several are accessible for free online). Then cease distributing treats and turn off the sound.
Continue doing this with the sound at a low volume until your dog looks to you eagerly when it begins. Always make sure to check to see whether your dog seems at ease with the noises and isn’t acting anxiously.
In following training sessions, gradually increase the volume while changing the recordings to feature a range of fireworks until your dog starts to link the noises to treats and praise for maintaining their composure.
What is fireworks trauma in pets?
In comparison to humans, dogs can hear noises at four times greater distances and at more than double the number of frequencies. It is not surprising that pets experience fear or anxiety when they hear explosions. Similar to humans, a pet’s genetic make-up and life experiences affect how they react to different noises and how they handle fear and anxiety. Pets with a history of abuse or neglect, for instance, are probably more susceptible to being startled. Pets who do not undergo therapy for noise aversion will often get worse over time, instead of learning to ignore harmless noises like fireworks or thunderstorms. Although cats can also experience anxiety in response to certain noises, dogs are more susceptible to noise aversion reactions. Fireworks are one of the most typical triggers for noise aversion, which is described as an unpleasant or scared reaction to a particular noise. Pets who are sensitive to noise may respond by hiding, and many animals may get perplexed by the direction of the sounds and seek an exit. Their fight-or-flight reaction puts them at danger for becoming lost or hurt when they run into the street in front of moving cars or jump through windows.
Fireworks trauma signs in pets
The symptoms of fireworks trauma might vary and seem like those of other underlying illnesses. Traumatic wounds like soft tissue injuries from jumping through a closed window or shattered bones after being struck by a car are also possible. Symptoms of fireworks anxiety may include:
- improper feces or urination
- between the legs while retaining their tail
- increased use of water
- climbing or pawing at people
- hiding in a cupboard or behind furniture
- Unexpected, abrupt, or harmful actions like fleeing or leaping through windows or doors made of glass
Fireworks trauma diagnosis and treatment in pets
If your pet is hurt because they are afraid of the noise of fireworks, take them to the vet right away. The symptoms of anxiety in pets may mimic those of other underlying medical conditions, therefore they should also undergo a veterinary examination. To assess the general health of your organs, your veterinarian may advise doing a complete blood count and a serum biochemistry test. When a pet sustains a traumatic accident, it may be necessary to perform an X-ray to check for fractured bones or other injuries in addition to providing pain relief and treating shock.
Your veterinarian will go over ways to prevent problems with noise aversion or anxiety related to fireworks once any underlying medical issues have been checked out. Treatments could consist of:
- Feliway or Adaptil pheromone sprays to encourage feelings of well-being
- diets or calming supplements
- short-term tranquilizers
- prescription drugs to raise serotonin levels
- Never give your pet any medication unless your veterinarian has prescribed it, even though they are comparable to human prescription meds.
- suggestion of a veterinary behaviorist or the use of a training regimen that include desensitization and counterconditioning
- An anxiety vest or thundershirt that applies light pressure to the torso of your pet can help reduce stress.
Financial options for pets undergoing fireworks trauma treatment
A lengthy hospital stay may be necessary for pets who were hurt due to their fireworks phobia, particularly if they are hit by a car or sustain other traumatic wounds. Pets with noise phobias may need multiple veterinary visits in order to modify medications or treatment regimens. As a result, treating a pet who is afraid of noise can result in a high vet cost. However, a pet health insurance plan like Trupanion will guarantee that money is accessible for such emergency treatments and long-term care. Your veterinary practice won’t need to submit paperwork or wait for reimbursements because Trupanion can pay them directly. Short-term loans, pet health savings accounts, Care Credit, and Scratch Pay are additional financial choices for paying for medical expenses.
Firework trauma prevention in pets
If your pet has a history of noise phobia, talk about your choices with your veterinarian in the months or weeks leading up to Independence Day. Make sure the microchip in your pet is working and that the registration contains the most recent contact information in case your pet goes missing. Other preventative advice is as follows:
- Plan your pet’s meals and potty breaks to avoid times when fireworks are most prevalent.
- Don’t bring a fearful animal to a fireworks show.
- If you need to take your pet outside for a restroom break after dark, keep them on a leash at all times, even in your fenced-in backyard.
- Your pet should have a designated escape during fireworks displays, such as the back of a closet or a quiet, safe location like a kennel.
- During the fireworks, give your pet their favorite toy and treats to promote a good relationship with the sounds.
Why are some dogs scared by fireworks while others are not?
Rear ears. A trembling body. slithering under the bed or hiding in the bathtub. Dog owners are familiar with the unmistakable indications of a fearful puppy, and they are more frequent in the summer, when thunderstorms and fireworks can make canines more anxious. However, although some dogs tuck their tails and flee at the sight of a sparkler, others seem undeterred by booms and bangs.
Dog experts from all around the world are looking into what causes dogs to react to sounds with dread in order to sort out this canine perplexity. A better knowledge of canine fear behaviors may enhance the lives of dogs and possibly aid in the explanation of human fear reactions.
Although dogs are renowned for their keen sense of smell, sound also shapes how they perceive the outside world. Dogs can hear noises around four times further away and at more than twice the number of frequencies as humans. Dog brains must decide which sounds should be paid attention to and which can be ignored because reacting to every sound would be too energy-intensive. This “auditory flexibility” is crucial for working dogs since, for instance, military dogs and detection dogs must be able to maintain composure in the face of potentially dangerously loud noises and explosions.
Conversely, nature has taught most animals, including dogs, that avoiding a perceived threat is worthwhile for overall survival, even if the threat ultimately proves to be unfounded, as in the instance of fireworks.
“Biologically speaking, it pays to take the risk of escaping even if it’s not essential. So why does my dog seem to get anxious sometimes? According to Daniel Mills, a professor of veterinary behavioral medicine at The University of Lincoln in England, that is a typical feature.
Early conditioning during a dog’s life may have an impact on how sensitive they are to sound. Similar to newborn humans, puppies go through crucial developmental stages where their brains create associations that can shape their behavior for the rest of their lives. A puppy would identify pounding with abandonment if, for instance, a construction worker was hammering the wall in a nearby apartment while the puppy was left alone at home without her owner being aware of what had happened. The dog can get fearful after hearing a bang because of that link.
“Puppies go through a stage where their brains learn what is normal, what is acceptable, and what they shouldn’t be terrified of. And then they begin to acquire their fear response after 12 weeks of age [about when the majority of dogs are adopted]. According to Naomi Harvey, Research Manager in Canine Behavior at Dogs Trust, if they come across something unfamiliar after three months of age and it frightens them, they may learn to be scared of that object in the future.
Despite having little to no bad associations with loud noises, some dogs still cower in fear during a storm, while others who had a traumatic early experience can learn to deal with their fear, frequently through desensitization and counterconditioning. Temperament offers one explanation for this. Temperament is a deeper, more hardwired system influenced by genetics and early development as opposed to personality and mood, which are more mutable emotional states. Epigenetics, or the process by which an animal’s genes are affected by its environment, shapes temperament and can significantly contribute to the canines’ innate propensity for stress, worry, and fear.
For instance, research in both humans and animals suggests that mothers who are under a lot of stress during pregnancy may pass on a worry tendency to their unborn children via the stress hormone cortisol. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) of the brain activates in response to a stress-inducing incident and releases cortisol, which circulates throughout the body and keeps a person on “high alert.” Cortisol levels that are too high during pregnancy have an adverse impact on the developing child, or in this example, the puppy.
In order to better understand the connection between the dogs’ internal stress reaction and behaviors in response to loud noises, such as hiding or shaking, researchers examined the amounts of cortisol in canine hair. According to one study, dogs exposed to thunderstorm recordings had higher cortisol levels than dogs exposed to typical canine sounds and barking. When exposed to the storm sounds, the dogs with greater cortisol levels in their hair also displayed increased rates of hiding, evading capture, and requesting human attention.
In a more recent study, border collies who shown more indications of fear and anxiety in response to loud noises actually had lower cortisol levels in their hair. This seems to be in conflict. The researchers proposed a theory to explain the results: “These canines may have become dysregulated during chronic exposure, resulting in a state of HPA hypoactivity, or ‘vital weariness,'” they said. The dogs, like chronically stressed humans who believe they can no longer manage, experienced such continual worry that their physiological processes stopped responding.
However, a dog does not necessarily need to have a scared temperament to develop a noise phobia. Researchers have examined how dogs react to loud noises such as fireworks, and they have found that a variety of parameters, including breed, age, sex, reproductive status, length of time with owner, and early exposure to loud noises, all had an effect. For example, dogs living with a breeder had a lower probability of experiencing fear than dogs with a second owner, and some kinds of dogs were more likely to exhibit scared behavior than mixed-breed dogs.
With advancing years, dogs are more likely to experience fear, which can be related to both pain and how sound affects them. Higher frequency noises, which provide crucial location signals, are the first sounds that older dogs lose the ability to recognize. The degree of a dog’s stress can be exacerbated by their inability to find sounds. Fireworks are significantly worse for a dog since they can’t see where the noise is coming from, which is definitely lot scarier for a dog. “You can watch a fireworks show and be sure that your balcony won’t be hit. However, if you’re a dog, all you know is that there’s been a bang there and another there, and I’m not sure the next bang will occur here.
A recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that preventing fear from arising in the first place is the best strategy for overcoming a firework phobia.
Stefanie Riemer, a researcher at the University of Bern’s Companion Animal Behavior Group in Switzerland who focuses on canines and their emotions, examined the management and treatment strategies employed by the 1,225 dog owners who responded to the survey and compared them to changes in fear scores. Riemer encouraged dog owners to choose from a variety of interventions and treatments for their dogs that had a known aversion to fireworks and to provide feedback on how the puppies fared during the New Year’s fireworks displays. The techniques included using noise-cancelling CDs, pheromone diffusers, herbal and homeopathic remedies, essential oils, prescription drugs, relaxation training, counterconditioning (trying to teach the dogs not to be fearful), and the use of relaxing pressure vests.
Riemer discovered that one of the best strategies to reduce the dog’s tension was at-home counterconditioning. Owners played with their dogs, gave them goodies, and smiled as the fireworks began. On average, dogs who underwent this counterconditioning were 70% less terrified of fireworks than dogs who did not. “Counterconditioning,” she explains, “would likely be the most crucial instruction to any owner, particularly with a new puppy or dog. “Maintain it that way, even if they haven’t yet displayed any noise phobia.
According to Harvey, who was not involved in the study, “There’s a notion that by responding favorably, you’re encouraging fear, which you can’t do since fear is an emotion, not a behavior.
For owners to determine where on the fear spectrum their dog’s anxiety sits, Mills and his colleagues created the Lincoln Sound Sensitivity Scale (LSSS). This is because not all dogs can undergo this kind of training or will be open to it. When we say that an animal exhibits a strong response to the sounds of fireworks, we mean that the animal has a fear of fireworks. We’re curious to know the size of that response, according to Mills.
Owners can work with a veterinarian to identify the best course of action for treatment, which may involve medication and additional coping methods, once they are able to accurately assess the level of anxiety that their particular dog exhibits. The LSSS phone app will soon be released, and its creators are hoping it will be in time for this year’s Fourth of July and summer festivities.
People are only now starting to acknowledge that dogs, like humans, have feelings. Supporting a dog’s emotional well-being is also a component of providing for them. We will be better able to keep dogs’ tails wagging the more we understand the complexity of their emotional states.