The Fourth of July is celebrated all around the United States with food, time outside, and fireworks in many places. While the day can be incredibly fun, many pets and wildlife don’t enjoy the loud noises, smells, or even flashes of fireworks. Some say July 5th is the busiest day of the year for rescues and shelters because pets get so scared of the fireworks and run off. There are a few different ways to help your pets and many others survive this weekend.
Don’t Set Off Fireworks
While fireworks are a main selling point of the Fourth of July, over 150 wildfire scientists are urging people to skip these festivities because of the extreme drought, heat, and dry vegetation much of the American west is currently facing. And it’s not just scientists that are worried, as many cities around the country are banning fireworks within city limits.
There are a few benefits to not setting off fireworks. First, pets, wildlife, and people who could be triggered by the noises can safely enjoy the weekend without the fear of periodic loud booms. The added and prolonged levels of stress that fireworks can bring to humans and animals can cause all sorts of issues.
Second, fireworks can easily cause wildfires and injuries. People accidentally starting wildfires has, unfortunately, been a striking but predictable trend over the last few decades and with the current climate, it would be all too easy to start more catastrophic wildfires that destroy ecosystems, property, and lives. Between 1992 and 2015, more than 7,000 wildfires were started on July 4th in the United States and in 2018, there were an estimated 9,100 people injured because of fireworks. More than a third of those injuries were children under 15!
Third, fireworks have numerous negative impacts on wildlife. The pollution can cause health problems for animals while leftover debris and trash can easily clog up an ecosystem. For birds, studies have shown that fireworks cause adult birds to abandon their nests out of confusion and fear, fly into buildings, or suffer from weight loss and disrupted sleep patterns once returning to their nests. Even fireworks that are half a mile away have been known to negatively impact nesting birds.
Protect Your Pet From Fireworks
If you decide not to set off fireworks but still worry about them being set off around you, there are some ways to help your pets get through the loud noises. There are all sorts of calming treats that have melatonin or CBD. While the effects of CBD on pets haven’t been studied in depth, there is anecdotal evidence from many pet owners that suggest CBD products have helped their animals with anxiety, stress, and even arthritis.
There are a few other ways to make this weekend just a bit easier. First, take your dog for a long walk or run early on in the day. If it’s too hot to walk in your area, try cool activities like swimming, scent work, or puzzle toys. Anything you can do to tire your pet out without risking heat exhaustion can really help. These tips can work for all sorts of pets, including those that aren’t affected by calming treats (or even anti-anxiety medications).
For any pet, offer them a safe space at night that allows them to hide away in a cool, dark area if they feel like hiding. Keep any and all entryways and possible escapes closed so your pets don’t try to run off at the sound of fireworks. While you know that your home is the safest place for them, our pets don’t know that and might try to run off just to try and get away from the loud noises.
Setting up white noise around the house can also help. Fans are particularly great for this weekend because in addition to helping keep things cool, they can add an extra layer of noise to potentially soften firework booms. Also consider turning on the television or radio. If you’re not planning to watch a show or movie, there are shows and music made specifically for dogs and cats that can help distract them!
Be Aware of the Heat and Sun
The Pacific Northwest has been seeing recording breaking temperatures lately and while things have generally cooled off, it’s important to remember that it’s still warm and sunny outside. Just like humans, our pets can be negatively affected by high temperatures and sunny weather. Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even sunburns are all concerns you should be keeping an eye out for in yourself, other people, and your animals.
Make sure you and your pets have consistent access to shade and clean, fresh water. While a significant amount of people in the Pacific Northwest don’t have air conditioning, there are methods to help keep you and your furry friends cool. Fans set up around the house can help keep air flowing and might help cool things down just a bit. You could also put a damp towel in the freezer for a bit before laying it on top of your pet. There are also cooling vests and mats that can help keep your dog cool on hot days and some dogs might even enjoy laying in a kiddie pool of cold water.
However, when trying to cool your pet down, be careful to not cool them down too quickly or do things that could cause unintended problems. For overheated dogs, ice baths or ice packs can be dangerous because rapid cooling can actually cause your dog’s blood vessels to contract and reduce blood flow. That, in turn, makes it much more difficult for your dog to cool down. Similarly, swimming in lakes, ponds, and rivers can be a wonderful thing for humans and animals alike. But look out for signs of algae, as there are some types that are toxic, and be wary of rivers with strong currents.
If you have a dog with a thick, double coat, it might seem like a good idea to shave them or at least give them a haircut. But those thick coats actually help these dogs regulate their temperatures and provide sun protection for their skin so it’s important that you do not shave these dogs! In the summer, most of their dense undercoat is gone and the outer layer of guard hairs allow cool air to circulate around your dog’s skin. Instead of shaving them, help your dog out by brushing them regularly with an undercoat rake to help get their undercoat out and to prevent painful mats or tangles from forming.
While the Fourth of July might be stressful for pets and a possible start to wildfires, there are ways to protect your pets and others. Fireworks can be a lot of fun but for some, the loud noises are incredibly stressful and that’s particularly true for animals of all kinds. Plus, with the record heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, growing droughts, and other effects from climate change, fireworks this year have the potential to cause significant damage.
There are plenty of other ways to still have fun this weekend, even with the Covid-19 pandemic. Picnics or a potluck at a park or even in your backyard can be a great way to spend part of the day! Plus, if you have a dog that loves water, going for a swim can be a great way to cool down and get some exercise in.
Ultimately, the most important thing should be protecting your friends, family, pets, and community. It may not be fun to skip the fireworks or campfire this year but doing so can dramatically reduce the stress that the people and animals around you will feel this weekend while also eliminating the possibility of a wildfire.
What are your plans this weekend? Let me know in the comments!