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It’s already started: Early fireworks are going off in celebration of the New Year, and lost pet notices are being posted on social media and neighborhood apps.
Fireworks are frightening to some pets. The loud bangs, booms and bright flashes of light can cause such anxiety that animals go into flight mode to try to get away from the commotion. Even animals that are normally not fazed by loud lights and sounds such as lightning and thunder can become anxious when around fireworks.
Dogs that are experiencing fireworks-induced anxiety may show it in a variety of ways. Pay attention to the signs that your pet may be feeling stressed.
These can include whining or barking, panting, trembling, shaking, pacing, hiding, trying to escape, decreased appetite, drooling, potty accidents, dilated pupils or wide eyes and vomiting.
Every year, Jan. 1 and July 5 are the busiest days for people looking for lost pets. Social networks are filled with posts of lost and found animals on these days.
Let’s break the cycle in 2023. Here are some tips to ensure pets are safe and secure as we ring in the New Year:
1. Leave the pets at home. It is never a good idea to take the dog to a fireworks display or to have them outside when setting off fireworks. Some dogs try to chase and catch the fireworks and, as a result, can be seriously injured.
2. Inside the house is best. Provide pets with a safe, quiet and secure area within the house. This is especially important if no one will be home with the pet. Turning up a television or radio to help buffer the noise from outside will also help minimize stress. A fun chew toy or Kong filled with a treat can be a great distraction.
3. Pay attention to when they start. We never know when the celebrations will begin or end, as they often start a few days before and last several days after New Year’s Eve. Make adjustments to the regular routine and use extra precautions for the days surrounding a fireworks holiday. Double-leash the dogs for a walk. Use a harness for extra security. Walk into the yard with the pets, even if the yard is secure.
4. Take potty breaks early on New Year’s Eve. If a dog is nervous, he will likely avoid going outside once the festivities have started, so make sure all potty breaks are taken care of before the action begins. If he needs to go out during the celebration, take the dog outside on a leash to prevent bolting. Even if the yard is fenced, a terrified dog can quickly dig out or jump the fence. Also, allow for accidents. If away from home, do not be surprised if the dog has been destructive or has a potty accident, as these are ways of coping with the stress.
5. Identification is a must. Make sure pets are wearing collars and ID tags with up-to-date information at all times. This is a good time to make sure pets are microchipped and that the chip is registered with your current contact information.
6. Check the yard for debris. After the celebrations have come to an end, make sure all debris from fireworks is pick up so pets do not ingest anything they aren’t supposed to.
In severe cases of anxiety or fear, seek advice from a veterinarian on how to keep the pets safe. The last thing anyone wants is for an already frightened dog to be in distress and roaming the streets.
Let’s start 2023 off with our furry friends happy, healthy and safe at home.
Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For information on ARNO, visit animalrescueneworleans.org.