BUCKHANNON – Fourth of July weekend ushers in an abundance of fireworks and pyrotechnics – but some people may not know that it also leads to a surge in the number of missing pets.
Locally, president of LUV 4 Animals Desiree Poling said more dogs and cats go missing during the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.
In addition to military veterans, whose post-traumatic stress symptoms may be triggered by loud bangs and booms, pets are also particularly sensitive to the thunderous sound of fireworks.
“There’s a lot of pets who struggle with fireworks for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is the noise – the fear and stress that the noise can bring on – animals have really great hearing, especially dogs, but a lot of our animals have a really good hearing and that extra loud noise can cause a lot of phobias in animals and can cause increased panic reactions,” Poling said.
She said the sounds of fireworks and firecrackers being set off also sets off a stress response in animals.
“It causes them to [go into] fight or flight [mode] a lot of the time, so you get a lot of lost, runaway dogs,” Poling said.
Director of the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility Jan Cochran said that’s why it is important to have a secure collar on pets, with tags and contact information.
“I would recommend putting your pet in a more soundproof room in your home, like a basement with no window,” Cochran said. “I’d also recommend talking to your vet about maybe getting some medicine to keep your animal calmer. If you have your dog tied, or anything like that, ensure you have a buckle collar – not one of the snap collars. Make sure that it’s on tight and secure and don’t take your dog to events where there’s going to be fireworks being set off.”
Cochran said if an animal does run away, it’s important to call the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility at 304-472-3865 when they reopen.
“If their animal does run away, they should contact us the next morning, because it’s probably going to be nighttime when they get away,” Cochran said. “Let us know what area the dog went missing in, a description of the dog, their phone number, and then if the animal comes in, we can give them a call and get them home faster that way.”
Poling said fireworks may also cause adverse health side effects in animals.
“Also, it can cause them to have a fight reaction, which can cause increased heart rates, and older dogs can have health issues related to this and can cause ongoing panic, which can become an issue with behaviors in the animals as well,” Poling said.
She also urged everyone to clean up the trash from leftover fireworks.
“Not to mention the harmful effects of chemical particles, a lot of our birds and wildlife can not only get hurt by the shrapnel, but they can ingest these things and your dogs can go out in the yard and find old sparklers or old pieces of firecrackers and inhale these toxins,” Poling said. “There’s also things that people don’t think about – like making sure they’re cleaning up those items after the Fourth so that animals aren’t getting later poisoned by those things.”
Cochran also recommended talking to a vet if a pet gets particularly anxious because of fireworks.
“If you have a dog that is prone to it, I would look into putting your dog on 30 days of medication – I don’t know what they may give, just something to call the calm the nerves,” Cochran said. “If you have an animal, you definitely know has that issue, it’s best to talk to your vet and then just get a 30-day dose each for this time of year when the fireworks are going off.”
Poling also suggested talking to a vet about calming agents and more short-term solutions for planned fireworks.
“There’s lots over-the-counter [supplements], but I always suggest talking to your vets because not everything is created equal,” she said. “There are CBD oils for dogs and also calming prescription medications, but again, please check with your vet first.”
Turning on soothing music or a familiar TV show may also help quell animal panic.
“Leaving some music on to help drown out the background noise or a TV would be good,” she said.