One of the most anticipated celebrations of the summer season is the Fourth of July holiday. While many of us run towards the merriment, it’s important to realize that dogs have a different reaction, caused primarily by noise phobia from fireworks.
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 may interpret the sound like a threat, activating his fight-or-flight response.
But why are some dogs unafraid of loud noises? It depends on the environment your pet grew up in. If your dogs were not exposed to loud noises when they were puppies, or if they experienced a traumatic-related noise event, then the sudden loudness from fireworks going off could startle them.
According to a paper published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, a dog’s breed has some bearing on whether or not he 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, fireworks are loud. Those that are noise-shy can get frightened by the loud, explosive noises 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’d 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 want to go out and enjoy the local fireworks, the best thing to do is leave your pet with a family member, friend, or pet sitter who lives in a quieter area of town. Ideally, your pet must be familiar with the person and okay with you leaving them behind, so as not to give them another reason to stress out.
If you can’t find anyone to leave them with and have to keep them home (and in range of firework 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 your air conditioner, TV, or radio. You may also want to provide entertainment for your pet, such as giving him food or toys, to distract him from the noise.
It would also help to put the dog in a place where he feels most comfortable, like his kennel or crate, in the room where you’re keeping him.
Lastly, as a precaution, keep identification on your dog’s collar, in case he gets out and the doors weren’t locked. Many dogs get lost or get into an accident running from home during Fourth of July celebrations.
Fireworks don’t always end on the Fourth of July. There’s also New Year’s and other occasions where fireworks will be present 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 during/after the recordings, so they associate these incidents 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 him to get lost or stressed. Besides these possibilities, summer shindigs are often outdoor barbeques where a majority of the food isn’t good for pets. Some of these foods include raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, xylitol, and alcoholic beverages. When people aren’t paying attention, dogs look for the opportunity to sneak some treats.
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:
- Painful abdomen
- Tremors and seizures
- Shallow breathing
- Uncoordinated movement
- Bloody diarrhea
What to Do When Your Pet Ingests Fireworks
First and foremost, call your veterinarian right away.
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, as well.
If the amount of fireworks your dog ingested is significant or he gets burns to the face, he 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.
- Keep an eye on your pets so they don’t eat anything undesirable.
- Keep pets a safe distance from where the fireworks are by keeping them on their leash or keeping them inside the house.
Final Thoughts: Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
As we celebrate the summer holiday, let’s not forget the ways in which this 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.
Now you know the answer to the question, “Why are dogs scared of fireworks?”. If you still have more questions, leave your questions below as comments and our team will respond!