Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The 4th of July: Fireworks.....and Fear

Although I have no clue when or why thunderous fireworks became an integral part of celebrating Independence Day, you probably don’t want to know where I’d like to stick those Roman candles. And I imagine your pets feel the same way….tenfold.

As animals possess extraordinary senses, just envision what the continuous flash-boom-bang of explosive firecrackers does to your dogs, cats, horses and other creatures. In most cases, I can guarantee you that the hellacious noise elicits a “fight or flight” response. Neither of which is pretty if it means your dog busts out a window, your cat climbs the drapes, or your horse bolts through the barn, all of them in the throes of panic.

So to pre-empt some of these instinctual reactions, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the very real stress - and pain - this holiday can create.

First and foremost, please keep your pets indoors. And that includes horses and other farm animals; they should be securely sheltered. In addition, your dogs and cats should wear their ID tags during this time even if they’ll be hiding under the bed or cowering in the kitchen as - again - their first instinct is to flee.

Secondly, if you’re planning on attending the local light show, don’t even think about taking your dogs with you. Leave them at home with the cats; turn the TV on or play soft music to mitigate any outside sounds; and, if possible, put them in a place where their avenue of escape is very limited (I.e., away from windows, glass doors, etc.).

If you’re like me - someone who will definitely not be out reveling - and will be home with your pets, simply talk reassuringly to them if they become anxious or agitated. For as much as you’d like to cuddle or hold them, this can actually reinforce their fear as they are being inadvertently “rewarded” for their behavior. Believe me, been there, done that, and this “training by accident” is very hard to undo.

Last but not least: Picnics and backyard barbeques are a huge part of July 4th celebrations, especially when the holiday occurs on a weekend. And these venues usually mean spare ribs, burgers and onions, hot dogs and mustard, spicy baked beans and potato salad, beer…..absolutely none of which should find its way down an animal’s throat.

Pork rib bones are easily splintered and can shred stomachs to ribbons. Onions are extremely toxic to dogs and cats. And a mustard-mayo-Miller Lite combo can cause diarrhea. In other words, don’t you - or the kids - share with your pets in order for them to “feel the love“ because, at the very least, they‘ll most likely vomit.

Bottom line: With a few precautions and a lot of common sense, you can save yourself a ton of grief by being proactive and protecting your pets from the potential hazards of this holiday. Trust me, they won’t care one whit if they never see a sparkler again…

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