With Fourth of July right around the corner, many pet owners can get nervous in preparing their animals for the thunderous and fear-striking fireworks that so often cause anxiety and runaway pets every year.
“Keep your dogs inside. Cover their crate with a blanket to give them extra security, and do not let them outside,” says Crystal Eskola, Deputy Director of City of Augusta Animal Services.
The entire week of the holiday causes the shelter to be extremely busy.
“People don’t just set fireworks off on the Fourth. They do fireworks for days before and a few days after. We get dogs throughout the week that are lost or strays,” she said.
Those who are inexperienced or are still getting to know their animal might be worried about how to help their pet during this overwhelmingly loud holiday, but Eskola offers some tips on how to keep dogs calm and safe.
Keeping them at home and making sure they have identification are among the first things pet owners should do.
If neighbors have raucous displays, a local dog trainer has other advice.
“Set up a specific area in your house away from windows to dampen the noise from the fireworks. Play calming music and have chews or a Kong prepped to keep them busy. Make sure your pet has a collar on and is microchipped in case they happen to get out. Also, talk to your vet about situational anxiety medication before the big event,” says Miranda Lonergan, owner of Happy Tails and Trails Dog Training and Walking Services.
Eskola says even microchipped pets can be in danger of getting lost because of un-updated information attached to the chip.
“People need to make sure they update their contact info, old information on the microchip doesn’t help the pet or owner,” she said.
For unchipped pets, the City of Augusta Animal Services offer microchipping for $15 at 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.
In emergency cases, if microchipping is not an option, Eskola recommends safe alternatives that will do in a pinch.
“Write your phone number on their collar if you don’t have tags. If they get off leash often, take a sharpie and write your information on the dog’s stomach,” said Eskola.
While trainers say anti-anxiety medication is an option, they do caution against one “old school” drug that is still widely used.
“Talk to your veterinarian now about anti-anxiety medications for fireworks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving an anti-anxiety or sedative so that your dog is comfortable and happy during fireworks. But don’t drug your dog with Acepromazine!,” said Lia Fricke, co-owner of Dog On It Training and Grooming. “It’s an old school drug that some veterinarians still give, and there’s a saying in the training world where we say ‘Don’t Ace the fear!’”
According to Fricke, Acepromazine will sedate the body but will allow the mind to still be hyperactive and aware. This prevents a dog’s body from responding to their mental fear and is, overall, not a good option for pets.
Keeping these tips in mind should help pets stay safe, the experts said.