Fireworks and pets: Tips to keep your dog or cat safe on July 4th

The Fourth of July is often celebrated with fireworks shows across the country. But pet owners know all too well how those bright lights and loud noises can be a scary situation for dogs and cats. 

Animals often panic hearing the loud booms caused by fireworks and try to flee. In fact, more pets go missing on July 4 and 5 than any other day of the year, according to the American Kennel Club.

"There are many factors that influence this," Dallas Harsa, AKC Reunite’s vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. "Barbecues, many people coming in and out of the house, and even the noise of the fireworks, which may cause pets to panic and they will try to flee somewhere. They don’t know where the noise is coming from and they try to escape because they don’t understand."

Here are tips for pet owners from a variety of pet experts on how to keep their furry friends safe this Fourth of July:

Be prepared

The Los Angeles-based Michelson Found Animals Foundation offers several tips to help ensure the safe return of a pet, should they happen to flee. 

First, pet owners should make sure their dog is wearing an ID tag with the correct information. Secondly, owners should make sure their pet is microchipped — and double-check that the microchip is up to date. 

"Check that your pet’s microchip is registered and contains the correct name and your current phone number and address, otherwise there’s no easy way to reach you if they’re found," the foundation said in a statement.

Pet owners can register a microchip for free here

Leave pets at home

PETA stresses for owners to never bring animals along to watch fireworks displays. Instead, leave them at home indoors and never have them tethered or chained outside.

"They can hang themselves if they leap over a fence while trying to run from the noise. Animals can also injure themselves while trying to climb out of pens," the nonprofit said in a statement. 

Tire them out beforehand

If it’s cool enough outside on July Fourth weekend, PETA recommends taking dogs for a long walk or to play at a dog park before the fireworks begin in an effort to help tire them out.

Create a safe space

Michelson Found Animals Foundation recommends creating a safe, escape-proof space in the home. 

"Lower the blinds, close the windows, provide a bed or crate where they feel comfortable, offer a special chew or toy to distract them and turn on the TV or radio to help mask the noises outside," the foundation said.

Try a calming aid

"To animals, fireworks really do sound like ‘bombs bursting in air,’" PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement.

To help reduce a pet’s stress and anxiety from the noise, there are a variety of medications and supplements that can help. Owners should contact their veterinarian early to determine which is best — as every pet and situation is different. 

SFChroniclePandemicPets

FILE - Pepper the dog, who was adopted during the coronavirus pandemic, is pictured in a file image taken April 12, 2012, in Oakland, California. (Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Wrap them up

Michelson Found Animals Foundation says that confining movement in dogs and cats actually has a calming effect on them. There are anti-anxiety wraps or coats made for animals — or even a scarf can get the job done in a pinch.

Check the locks

Prior to any fireworks display, make sure doors, gates and windows are all closed to help muzzle the loud sounds and prevent an escape.

Keep festivities out of reach

Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them, as those drinks have the potential to poison animals, according to the ASPCA. The same goes for citronella candles, insect coils and tiki torch oil products — as well as glow jewelry which contains a luminescent substance that is highly toxic.

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Editor’s note: A version of this article was originally published on June 23, 2020.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.