Minimize pets’ fireworks fears

Your pets aren’t used to fireworks so take every step to make them comfortable on July 4.
Your pets aren’t used to fireworks so take every step to make them comfortable on July 4. Contributed

Summer is here and the Fourth of July is just around the corner. A long weekend with friends and family and for us in the Keys, that usually means, water, sun and barbecue. And of course the fireworks. How great is that?

As with any great get-together where lots of food is involved, we know to be careful not to let our pets get into the leftovers or snacks from the table or downright steal the food off the grill. But our friends may think nothing of it. Aren’t dogs supposed to chew on bones anyway?

Well, their dog might but your dog isn’t used to them and you are the one cleaning up the mess when the belly ache starts and paying the veterinarian for fluids and medications when it gets worse. So be firm about the do’s and don’ts from the start and you can avoid a lot of trouble after the party’s over. But we can save all this for another time and get in depth into what gruesome things can happen when your pets get into trash and things their tummies aren’t acquainted with.

What I really want to talk about is fireworks. Most animals startle at loud noises. And noises from the sky will make them want to hide in a quiet dry cave until they have passed, preferably with a soothing companion to snuggle up to. We can teach animals to accept noises gradually over time with positive reinforcement. But fireworks displays are not the time to start this.

If your pet is already afraid of thunderstorms, it will be worse with fireworks. The kindest thing you can do in that case is stay home with your pet and ask your veterinarian for some anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications) to help them get through the worst of it. As some neighbors like to practice earlier in the week, it might help to start them on medications beforehand. Even melatonin once a day, twice a day (1.5 mg for dogs less than 20 pounds, 3 mg for dogs greater than 20 pounds) when the firecrackers start to sound on the street can take the edge off.

Thundershirts (tight-fitting onesies) will make your pet feel held and protected. But sometimes something stronger is needed to keep them calm. Call your vet if you think your pet may need medication to help it through the fireworks. If it hasn’t been seen in a while, you may have to bring it in for an exam so don’t wait until the last minute.

Be careful with fireworks around your pets. Just like children, they are curious and some will downright try to attack the volcanoes or Catherine wheels, with detrimental outcome. You can never be too careful when it comes to fireworks. Some of the most horrific injuries have come about from a dog trying to protect his or her owner from the fiery threat. We have seen it all and it stays with us forever. Not to speak of the pet.

So be safe, plan ahead and then go and enjoy the Fourth of July.

Feel free to e-mail questions to or write to her care of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital, 5001 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050.