You've heard me say it before... but this is a reminder worth repeating, and passing on to fellow animal lovers...
While July 4th is about the INdependence or our country, we must not forget that our fur kids are especially vulnerable and DEpendent on us humans to keep them safe during patriotic celebrations!
All I have to say is, don't get me started about fireworks....
Imagine suddenly hearing them and having no idea what they are... now add flashes of light that seem much like lightening and the occasional oohs, ahhhs and screams of humans as they go off. Scary!
Additionally, even though fireworks are illegal in many places, there are invariably plenty of neighborhood patriots still lighting them off at all hours for the days before and after the 4th. Naturally, these random sounds spook even the most secure critter to run for cover...myself included.
Given that canine hearing is far more sensitive than humans, exposure to fireworks is not only far from festive, but may even be painful to pooches. A dog's ears are shaped in such a way that they amplify sound. They also hear noise over a greater distance and at a wider frequency range than humans do.
Statistics reveal that more dogs, go missing over the 4th of July than any other US holiday. Many of them end up in shelters with no identification connecting them to their humans. Spooked dogs also tend do run farther, as the noise continues, than they might otherwise, which makes the chance of their safe return even less likely. This is tragic and preventable.
Thankfully, such risks can be greatly reduced with some simple preparation. As their 'parents,' we must keep our 'fur kids' safe and secure before and during the holiday.
1. I can not overstate the importance of keeping updated tags on all companion animals. Microchipping is also important, but a current, readable tag is critical. Providing a good Samaritan or local shelter with a simple way to reunite you with your loved one is the safest way to get him back. Without a tag, the journey home is far more complicated -- and therefore less likely.
Our nations shelters are filled with lost family pets who no one anticipated would ever get lost.
*For cats in particular it is important that a tag be on a 'quick-release' type collar for safety. Most pet supply stores will know what you are asking for if you request this.
Even though my cats are indoors only, I still keep a tag on each of them that has my cell phone number and the words, "If I am out, I am lost."
2. Many people travel over the holidays, leaving furry family with a neighbor, petsitter or friend- this is often unfamiliar and is frequently when animals escape or get lost. While it is critical to always have current tags, you might also consider getting a tag that includes your pet sitter's name and number if you are going to be unreachable while away.
3. Random fireworks can be heard everywhere on and around July 4th. It is essential that even the most obedient animals be secured in an area (preferably indoors) that does not allow them to escape. Special precautions should be taken to avoid leaving a companion animal unattended in a yard. It is also best they not be taken anywhere without a secure leash.
4. Close shades and curtains to both muffle sounds and conceal flashes of light. Play relaxing music (there is some made specifically for companion animals), and it can't hurt to add calming scents like lavender- but be sure they are out of reach so nervous critters don't ingest them.
5. Try to engage your animal's attention with toys, games or perhaps one of those hard rubber chew toys you can fill with peanut butter- I like to call this 'mission peanut butter' as it clearly becomes their mission to get every last lick out of that pesky toy!
6. If possible, stay home with your companion animals during any local fireworks events-and ideally over the entire holiday weekend.
7. Special compression shirts made to reduce canine stress during thunderstorms can be a great help as well- I use one with our biggest fur baby and it seems to be very effective.
While a holiday weekend may be festive for humans, it is always important to stop and consider how our companion animals perceive such events. Sudden and unfamiliar sounds shake their sense of security and illicit territorial reactions that might otherwise be uncommon for that particular animal to exhibit.
Our furry friends are naturally protective and it's up to us to shield them from any added stressors that might put them in danger.
While I certainly wish you all a Happy 4th- My deeper wish is that it is a safe one for you, your fur kids and all the other living creatures with whom we share this great land!
Have a happy and safe 4th!
Dr. Pia Salk