North CarolinaAcademy of Small Animal Medicine

N.C.'s First Online Academy of Small Animal Medicine

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Fireworks and Noise Phobias July 3, 2008

Everyone loves the fun and festivities of the July 4th celebrations. However, our pets may not have the same appreciation of these patriotic displays. Dogs, cats, horses, and even livestock can react to fireworks in way that could potentially cause injury or even death. The fear of noises and sounds like fireworks and thunderstorms are known as "Noise Phobias". During the upcoming celebrations, keep small pets indoors. A good idea is to keep the pet in an interior room without windows. Turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction. Never leave pets alone outdoors, even if tethered or in a fenced yard. It is not uncommon for dogs to escape or injure themselves in a frenzied attempt to escape.Many animal shelters report increases of "stray" animal intakes after the 4th of July holiday due to the number of pets running away in an attempt to avoid the noise and excitement. If you are planning on attending a fireworks celebration, leave you pet at home. If you must be outside with you pet, be sure to have the pet constrained on a lead or kept in a carrier. Some pets may become "fearfully aggressive" due to the loud noises. Protect you pets from children who may not realize the consequences of waving sparklers or setting off home fireworks.Be sure that you pet has a current ID tag and/or microchip so that you and your pet can be easily reunited in the case he or she runs off.Your veterinarian may prescribe tranquilizers or mild sedatives for your pets during this time, but these drugs do have limitations and should not be used on a daily basis. Natural methods, such as pheromone therapy or melatonin are also available. Desensitization methods are also an option for many pet owners. By playing a CD that contains noises of thunderstorms, fireworks, and gunshots, many pets can be counter-conditioned and may actually begin to remain calm during these events. Check out for examples of desensitization CDs. Never punish you pet for his fearful behavior, but do no reinforce the behavior by trying to sooth you pet with "It's OK' or similar words. Paying attention to your pet may positively reinforce the fearful behavior. If you believe any of your pets have a noise phobia, talk with your veterinarian and staff about the best ways to keep you pet safe this holiday.

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