Have a pet that's afraid of fireworks? Here's some advice from veterinarians

As towns gear up for fireworks displays this week, not everyone will be enjoying the show.

Veterinarians are reminding pet owners to be extra aware of the impact the lights and noise can have on dogs and other animals during this Fourth of July season. After many cancellations last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact is expected to be even greater this year with the return of many traditional fireworks shows.

"All animals have the ability to be startled by loud noises and flashes," said Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the Schaumburg-based American Veterinary Medical Association. "We talk about dogs and cats, but let's not forget about the wildlife in the area or animals in rural areas. It's definitely an issue."

Kratt said there are many ways to calm a skittish pet, but medications like Benadryl should be used only after consulting a doctor. Turning up the volume on the television or radio, closing windows and blinds - making sure, of course, the room isn't too hot - and placing pets in a basement are a few of the recommendations he has for pet owners.

Anxiety shirts, a tightfitting garment for dogs and cats, are also an option. Kratt said the shirts produce a calming effect because it gives pets the feeling of being held.

Experts from the Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove expect the usual spike in holiday visits this week. They said owners need to carefully monitor what pets eat and drink, especially with the amount of extra debris on the ground.

"People are spending more time outdoors with their pets, which can inherently lead to more injury and illnesses," said Dr. Jennifer Herring, who works in the emergency and critical care department at the Veterinary Specialty Center. "Ingestion of fireworks themselves can be toxic to pets as the chemicals they contain are dangerous to the (gastrointestinal) tract, causing issues like vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain."

Before letting dogs and other animals wander outside, Kratt said pet owners should scan the area to make sure there's nothing that might be picked up. Pets may bite into an explosive like a bottle rocket that hasn't detonated and think it's a toy.

Kratt also emphasized that it's not just dogs and cats affected by fireworks. In rural areas, for example, horses and cows can struggle with the lights and noise.

In addition, dogs and other pets that are not properly contained are more likely to run off and become lost during a fireworks show.

"Most animals are not accustomed to the noise and commotion associated with fireworks," Herring said. "Add to that the backyard gatherings and unfamiliar faces, and it can be a recipe for disaster. Some pets will try to escape. Others will become aggressive, hide or become fearful."

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