top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureCaroline Lavigne

Guide for Pet owners and Pet sitters on How Fireworks Affect our Pets and What we Can Do to Help keep them calm.

Written by WNC Pet Care LLC, Pet Sitting & Dog Walking Business in Asheville, NC

Every year, as the night sky lights up with the spectacular colors of fireworks during celebrations like New Year's Eve, Independence Day, and other festivities, countless pets cower in fear, experiencing severe stress and anxiety. While humans marvel at these dazzling displays, many animals, particularly domestic pets, endure a nightmarish ordeal. This blog post delves into the scientific details of how fireworks affect pets, backed by statistics, and provides guidance on how to mitigate these adverse effects. Additionally, we'll discuss how pet sitters can implement effective solutions to help your pets feel less anxious during fireworks.

The Science Behind Fireworks Fear in pets


Pets, particularly dogs and cats, have acute hearing capabilities, far superior to that of humans. A dog's hearing range is between 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz, and a cat's is between 48 Hz to 85,000 Hz, compared to a human's 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. This means that the loud booms and high-pitched whistles of fireworks are significantly more intense and startling for them.

The unexpected nature and the irregular pattern of fireworks exacerbate the stress response in pets. According to a study by Mills et al. (2003), sudden, loud noises can trigger a fight-or-flight response in animals. This reaction is governed by the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotions, particularly fear. The sudden noise causes a surge in adrenaline, leading to increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and a state of heightened anxiety.




Statistics Highlighting the Impact on pets


Several studies and surveys have highlighted the prevalence of firework-induced stress in pets:

  1. PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report (2021): Nearly 40% of dog owners reported that their pets were afraid of fireworks.

  2. Blue Cross Survey (2020): Approximately 67% of dogs and 57% of cats exhibit clear signs of distress during fireworks.

  3. RSPCA Data (2019): Reports of pets going missing spike by up to 40% during firework-heavy periods due to panic and attempts to escape the noise.

How Pet Sitters Can Help Mitigate the Impact of loud noises on pets


As professional pet sitters, WNC Pet Care plays a crucial role in helping pets cope with the stress of fireworks. Here are some effective solutions we implement to ensure your pets feel safe and less anxious during firework displays:

  1. Creating a Safe Space: We establish a quiet, secure area in your home where your pet can retreat during fireworks. This could be a room with familiar bedding, toys, and items that provide comfort. Positive reinforcement is being practiced regularly using treats and other items.

  2. Soundproofing and Background Noise: To mask the sound of fireworks, we close windows, draw curtains, and turn on background noise such as the TV, calming music, or white noise. This helps to muffle the loud sounds and create a more serene environment.

  3. Administering Light Sedatives: Our Pet First Aid certified staff is trained to administer light sedatives or calming aids, as prescribed by your veterinarian. These can help to reduce anxiety and keep your pet calm during stressful periods. These sedatived are administered 2 hours prior to fireworks.

  4. Desensitization Training: If we're working with your pet long-term, we can gradually expose them to firework sounds at a low volume, rewarding calm behavior to build tolerance. This desensitization process can significantly reduce their fear over time.

  5. Interactive Play and Distractions: Engaging your pet in interactive play or offering distraction through puzzle toys and treats can help divert their attention from the fireworks.

  6. Staying Calm and Present: Pets often take cues from human behavior. Our sitters maintain a calm and composed demeanor, providing reassurance through gentle petting and speaking in soothing tones to alleviate your pet's anxiety.

  7. Identifying Signs of Distress: Recognizing the early signs of distress is crucial in providing timely comfort and care. Our pet sitters are trained to identify indicators of anxiety such as trembling, excessive vocalization, attempts to hide, or unusual behavior. By monitoring these signs, we can intervene early and take appropriate steps to soothe your pet. This might include additional comforting measures, adjusting the environment, or, if necessary, administering prescribed calming aids.



Common Signs of Distress in Pets


Pets exhibit various signs of distress when exposed to fireworks, including trembling or shaking, hiding or seeing refuge in small spaces, excessive barking or meowing, loss of bladder or bowel control, attempting to escape, pacing or restlessness, panting (in dogs) or drooling (in cats). Understanding the differences in how dogs and cats react to fireworks can help owners identify signs of distress and take appropriate action.

Dogs

  • c Physical Reactions: Dogs may tremble, shake, or shiver when scared. They might also exhibit excessive panting and drooling.

  • Vocalization: Dogs often bark, whine, or howl in response to fear-inducing sounds.

  • Behavioral Changes: Many dogs will attempt to hide or seek comfort from their owners. Some may become clingy or try to escape their environment.

  • Destructive Behavior: In severe cases, dogs might chew furniture, dig at doors, or otherwise act destructively in their attempt to cope with their anxiety.

Cats

  • Physical Reactions: Cats are more likely to freeze or crouch low to the ground when frightened. They may also exhibit rapid breathing.

  • Vocalization: Cats tend to meow loudly, hiss, or growl when they are scared.

  • Behavioral Changes: Cats often hide in secluded places such as under beds, in closets, or other small spaces. They may avoid interaction and become less sociable.

  • Escape Behavior: Similar to dogs, cats may attempt to flee their environment, which can lead to running away and getting lost.


Long-term Effects


The immediate effects of fireworks can lead to longer-term behavioral issues. Continuous exposure to such stressors can result in phobias, generalized anxiety, and even PTSD-like symptoms in pets. A study by Blackwell et al. (2013) indicated that noise phobias in dogs could lead to an overall reduction in the quality of life, affecting their behavior and health adversely.


Conclusion


While fireworks are a beloved part of many celebrations, it is crucial to remember their profound impact on pets. Understanding the science behind their fear and taking proactive steps can help mitigate these effects, ensuring our furry companions remain safe and stress-free during festive seasons. As pet sitters, we are dedicated to implementing these solutions, providing the care and comfort your pets need to weather the storm of fireworks with minimal distress. By adopting these measures and raising awareness, we can ensure that our celebrations do not come at the expense of our pets' well-being.


In loving Memory of my dog, Zena, who had countless sleepless nights due to fireworks and thunderstorms. Now you can Rest In Peace baby girl. - Caroline, who misses you very much



Bibliography

  • Blackwell, E. J., Bradshaw, J. W. S., & Casey, R. A. (2013). Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors, and co-occurrence with other fear-related behavior. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 145(1-2), 15-25.

  • Mills, D. S., Demontigny-Bédard, I., Gruen, M., Klinck, M. P., McPeake, K., Barcelos, A. M., ... & Bienhoff, S. E. (2020). Pain and problem behavior in cats and dogs. Animals, 10(2), 318.

  • PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report 2021. PDSA. Retrieved from PDSA PAW Report 2021.

  • Blue Cross. (2020). Fireworks and pets: How to keep your pets safe. Retrieved from Blue Cross Fireworks and Pets.

  • RSPCA. (2019). Fireworks and animals. Retrieved from RSPCA Fireworks and Animals.


Comments


bottom of page