New pet owners quickly become familiar with how animals react to auditory changes to their environment. Fire trucks can provoke howling and wailing, and the sound of food cans being opened can make them frantic. And a handful of times a year, pets being disturbed by noise can become a little more concerning.
Fireworks displays during the 4th of July and other holidays can be highly stressful for animals due to their frequent, powerful stretches of explosive sound. Owing to the proximity of the blasts, 5000 birds fell out of the sky following a fireworks display in Beebe, Arkansas, in 2011. Deer and other wild animals can panic and run into roads, causing accidents. That’s because fireworks can reach up to 170 decibels, far past the 120 decibel pain threshold for sound. In some cases, very loud noises can even prompt seizures in dogs and cats.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help mitigate your pet's reaction to neighborhood celebrations. Pets best cope with the stimulus by being kept in an interior room without windows and having a radio or television turned on to help distract them from the noise outside. Owners should also remain with pets so they don’t experience increased anxiety from being left alone.
If your pet has any point of exit and becomes agitated by the fireworks, there’s a strong possibility for escape: Animal shelters routinely report an increase in the number of admissions on July 5 due to runaways. If this is a possibility, it’s a good idea to make sure your pet’s identification tags are updated with your current contact information.
For dogs, be mindful that too much time in one room could cause some rebound anxiety. If they’ve been stuck in one place too long, getting a chance to survey the house or mingle with any house guests can ease their nerves. Exercise earlier in the day may also help keep them calm when the fireworks begin later that evening.
You’ll need some vigilance the next morning, too. Pets may chew on fireworks debris, which can be toxic. Be sure to clean up any residue before allowing them to roam on your property.
A version of this piece ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2021.