The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and as a licensed veterinary technician, visions of frantic pets running scared down the freeway enter my head. Year after year, pet owners are warned about the potential dangers Independence Day pose on our beloved furry family members. Last year I wrote about preventing pet anxiety on this freedom filled holiday. Fortunately, there’s already ample information on the web pertaining to Fourth of July pet safety, so I’ve decided to take a different approach.
Most of us know if our pets need special care on this explosive, rumbling night, but if they do need special care…do we really know why?
It’s fear that causes pets to hide under the bed during the thundering firecrackers. It’s fear that causes dogs to jump through window panes, only to find the outside world is what they fear even more. And it’s fear that causes pets to frantically roam for hours with no destination in sight only to wind up tragically deceased on the side of the road. But…what is fear? When does fear start? Why did it start in the first place?
As an LVT at Lone Mountain Veterinary Hospital, I see fear every day, and it comes it many shapes, sizes and severities. Terror, fright, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress…the list goes on. In humans fear is a vital response to physical or emotional danger allowing us to protect ourselves from threats. In pets it’s equivalent, but with a major language barrier; fear can be amplified by the slightest movement or sound.
Both, environmental and psychosocial, factors can cause stress in your pets. Stressors such as humidity, noise, pheromones, and odor contribute to environmental fear. Unfamiliar pets and people, as well as separation from his or her owner contribute to psychosocial factors. If taken lightly the festivities surrounding Independence Day can encompass many, if not ALL, of these!
Thanks to newer insights and progressive veterinary practices, fear can be recognized sooner and hopefully be reduced. Understanding your pet’s fear-induced triggers is first way you can help. If you observe signs or behaviors listed below, take time to record them and the circumstances surrounding them.
Signs Your Pet May Be Fearful or Anxious
Cats – Dilated pupils, arched back, open mouth (breathing through their mouth), thumping/flicking tail, hiding
Dogs – Dilated pupils, taught skin, furrowed brow, hunched back/rigid spine, tucked tail or high over the back wagging, closed mouth with lips short, lip smacking, yawning, and tense growling/snarling
We all know the cracks and booms of this year’s fireworks display will have many pets hiding, running or worst of all, dying. If you think your pet may be fearful of specific circumstances or events, take the time to understand your pet’s fear and anxiety, so it can be reduced and/or prevented in the future. Get your pet to the vet, or schedule a house call to have your pet assessed before tragedy strikes. Ask your veterinarian about special treatment plans that may include sedatives and anti-anxiolytics to ensure you and your pet have a safe and happy Fourth. This information isn’t meant to be boom, gloom and doom; it’s simply meant to empower you and protect your pet.