Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks? Preventing Related Injuries

One of the most anticipated celebrations of the summer season is the Fourth of July holiday. Even with the changes to how we gather in large groups this year, Independence Day is a fun holiday for most people in the U.S. Just remember that dogs often have a different reaction to the holiday caused primarily by noise phobia from fireworks.  

Though Castle Rock has formally cancelled the city’s fireworks show this year, chances are you can hear lots of firecrackers and other fireworks right in your own neighborhood. Just one loud bang is enough to frighten some pets. As always, if you experience a pet emergency, please call your veterinarian right away or bring them immediately to our Castle Rock emergency and specialty veterinary hospital.

Common pet hazards during the holidays include noise phobia, accidental food and fireworks poisoning, and thermal injuries as a side effect of ingesting fireworks.

But let’s take a step back — why are dogs scared of fireworks?

Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?

Fireworks produce a noisy, startling sound. Because it is probably unfamiliar to your dog, he or she may interpret the sound as a threat, activating a fight-or-flight response.

Getting even more deeply into the topic, why are some dogs unafraid of loud noises? It partly depends on the environment that your pet grew up in. If a dog was not exposed to loud noises as a puppy, or if a dog experienced a traumatic noise-related event, then the sudden noise from fireworks going off could startle them.

According to a paper published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, a dog’s breed also has some bearing on whether or not he or she will be scared of loud noises. Classic hunting breeds, such as Great Danes and pointers, are less likely to be scared because of their genetic predisposition not to be.

A Dog’s Loud Noise Phobia

As mentioned, clearly fireworks are loud. Dogs that are noise-shy can get frightened by the loud, explosive noises that fireworks make.

If you have a new dog and are unsure how they’re going to react to fireworks, you can get an educated guess for how they’ll react by observing their reaction towards other loud noises, such as thunderstorms. If they hide during thunderstorms, then it’s fair to assume that they’ll be afraid of fireworks.

How to Overcome the Noise Factor

If you plan to go out to enjoy a fireworks display, the best thing to do is leave your pet at home with a family member. Ideally, your pet must be familiar with the person they’re staying with and be okay with you leaving them behind, so as not to give them another reason for stress.

If no one can stay home with your pet, and if your home is in range of fireworks or firecracker sounds, leave your pet inside while the festivities occur. Choose the most soundproof room or the one farthest from the noise. Keep the room dark and close the windows to minimize the noise. You may opt to keep on devices that emit white noise and block out sounds, such as an air conditioner, TV, or radio. You may also want to provide entertainment for your pet, such as giving them food or toys to distract them from the noise.

It would also help to put your dog in a place where they feel most comfortable, like their kennel or crate, in the darkened, quiet room.

Finally, as a precaution, keep identification on your dog’s collar in case he or she escapes outside your home. Many dogs get lost or get into an accident while they are running from home during Fourth of July celebrations.

Fireworks don’t end after the Fourth of July. There are also New Year’s and other occasions where fireworks are presented and can affect your dog. For a long term solution, start a noise desensitization program. You can start by playing recordings of fireworks and other loud noises, and then slowly increasing the volume and duration to demonstrate that these sounds won’t harm them. Reinforce positivity by giving them affection and smack treats during/after the recordings, so that your dog associates noisy conditions with good feelings.

Veterinarians can prescribe dogs medicine for anxiety in extreme cases, but this should always be the last resort.

Food and Fireworks Poisoning

Noise isn’t the only thing you should watch out for during the Fourth of July.

Even if your dog isn’t scared of fireworks, it isn’t advisable to bring your dog to festivities where there are lots of people, because of the possibility for your dog to get lost or stressed. Summer social shindigs often include outdoor barbeques where a majority of the food isn’t good for pets, either. Some of these foods include corn cobs, which can cause intestinal blockage, raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, xylitol, and alcoholic beverages. When people aren’t paying attention, dogs might find an opportunity to sneak some people treats that can make them sick.

Aside from the risk of ingesting food, our curious canines are also at risk for ingesting fireworks. Fireworks contain hazardous chemicals such as heavy metals, coloring agents, sulfur, and oxidizing agents such as potassium nitrate. They can also contain chlorates, which oxidize red blood cells. This makes the iron in the blood’s hemoglobin rust, turning it from red to brown. The rusty blood, called methemoglobinemia, does not carry oxygen, which the body needs to function. Even if the body works to get rid of the damaged red blood cells, it eventually ends in kidney failure or death.

The severity of the case depends on what type of firework was ingested and how much of it was ingested.

Some symptoms to watch out for if you suspect your dog has ingested fireworks:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Painful abdomen
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Shallow breathing
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Jaundice

What to Do When Your Pet Ingests Fireworks

First and foremost, call your veterinarian right away or bring them into our Castle Rock emergency and specialty veterinary hospital.

Ingesting fireworks is serious. Again, it depends on the number of fireworks ingested and the type of firework ingested. If your pet has ingested a lit firework, it can cause burns to the face, lips, nose, eyes, or the insides of the mouth. Your pet’s fur may also catch fire, which could cause significant or fatal injuries.

If the amount of fireworks materials that your dog ingested is significant, or if they are burned on their face, they will need to be hospitalized and treated with IV fluids and medication.

Quick tips for preventing your pets from food and firework poisoning:

  • Pick up and immediately dispose of firework debris, picnic items, and people food and beverages (and remember to empty the trash so your dog can’t get into that).
  • Keep an eye on your dog and other pets so that they don’t eat anything undesirable.
  • Keep your pets a safe distance from fireworks displays by keeping them on a leash or keeping them inside the house.

Final Thoughts: Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?

As we celebrate the summer holidays, let’s not forget the ways in which the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday can be hazardous to our pets. It’s important to keep an eye on our furry friends.

If you’re going out to see fireworks, the best thing you can do for your dog is to leave them at home with a family member present.

Now you know the answer to the question, “Why are dogs scared of fireworks?”  If you still have questions, leave a comment and our team will respond.

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