Fort Worth

Why dogs hate July 4 (kaboom!!) and what you can do to help

Dogs love to be outside, but if they hate fireworks, find a safe and quiet place indoors to keep them happy.
Dogs love to be outside, but if they hate fireworks, find a safe and quiet place indoors to keep them happy. Star-Telegram archives

While you’re oohing and ahhing at Fourth of July fireworks this weekend, your dog could be cowering and trembling — or even worse, escaping into the night.

Most dogs don’t share our excitement with fireworks and other loud sounds such as thunder, which can cause serious anxiety and trigger their flight instinct.

And no time is worse that this weekend, when a steady barrage of pyrotechnics will be on display across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“It’s awful,” said veterinarian Matt Murphy of CityVet Uptown in Dallas. “It can be one of the scariest things in the world for them.”

Veterinarian David Shepherd, owner and chief of staff at Roanoke Animal Hospital, said he has seen pets that have become agiatated enough to injure themselves because of the noise.

Shepherd said he knows one family whose dog disappeared because of fireworks, and “they never saw her again.”

It can be one of the scariest things in the world for them.

Veterinarian Matt Murphy of CityVet Uptown in Dallas

Sandy Shelby, executive director of the Humane Society of North Texas, said the Fourth of July is not only a scary time for animals, but also it can result in a loose dog ending up at a shelter or even dead.

“We do see an increase in the number of animals [at the shelter] on July 5, and also many that are killed by cars on the Fourth,” Shelby said.

The fear of loud noises is more common in dogs that one might think, Shepherd said.

Keep dogs inside. The noise of fireworks may trigger their flight instinct and cause them to break free from restraint or jump a fence to escape.

“I'm guessing, in my experience, probably 20 to 25 percent exhibit some behavior change,” Shepherd said of dogs’ reactions to loud noises.

Other studies suggest the number could be as high as 40 percent.

Dogs can react differently to the noise. Some tremble, shake, cower or try to hide from fireworks, while others might even quit eating. Some pant heavily and drool. They’ll be more clingy. Others might empty their bladders.

Veterinarian Michael Morris, owner of Animal Hospital Southwest in Fort Worth, agreed that the phobia is a big problem for some dogs.

He said the condition is less common in puppies.

“We hardly ever see a puppy with this problem, it's usually in 2- to 5-year-olds,” Morris said.

New doggie drug on the market

A new drug that was recently approved to help with “canine noise aversion” by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug, Sileo, inhibits the brain chemical associated with anxiety and fear response.

Murphy said the new drug has only been available for about two months. Murphy said his stock quickly disappeared after he did a recent TV interview.

Murphy said the drug is normally used as a sedative while dogs undergo medical procedures.

Give the dog a safe place inside. Call it a doggy shelter. It might be an open crate or an interior room, closet or a bathroom.

However, when given in the mouth to be absorbed — it is in gel form — dogs relax enough that they don’t care about noise.

Murphy said people can ask their vets if it the drug is available. It typically lasts up to five hours, he said. Dogs can get up to five doses in a 24-hour period. It costs up to $40 a tube, he said.

Shepherd said if dog owners would rather not use drugs, they can try putting their dog in an interior room. He said some people have had success by placing a box fan in the room as “white noise,” to help soothe the dog's nerves.

Morris said that playing soft music can also help soothe a dog.

‘Leave your pet at home’

The largest Fourth of July fireworks display in North Texas, Fort Worth’s Fourth at Panther Island Pavilion, allows dogs on the site near the Trinity River, but organizers said they must be on leashes at all times.

Organizers urged dog owners to consider the noise level of fireworks before they bring their pets on-site because it could cause them to run away.

Use Thundershirts or other snug garments. The shirts apply gentle, constant pressure on a dog’s torso and are designed to comfort the animals.

“We strongly encourage people to please leave your pet at home on the Fourth of July, and inside if possible,” Shelby said. “We also encourage people to keep cats in as well.”

If you insist on taking your dog with you to watch fireworks, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that you make sure that your dog’s identification tags are up to date or have your dog microchipped.

Other shows, such as Sunday night’s Stars & Stripes extravaganza at Southlake Town Square, do not allow pets, with Stars& Stripes using a photo of a dog covering its ears and saying, “They won’t enjoy the fun.”

Or the noise.

Staff writer Diane Smith contributed to to this story.

Keeping your dog safe and happy this Fourth

Keep dogs inside. The noise of fireworks may cause them to break free from restraint or jump a fence to escape the scary sounds.

Give the dog a safe place inside. Call it a doggy shelter. It might be an open crate or an interior room, closet or a bathroom. Let the dog decide which place he likes best, then make sure it’s accessible.

Other noise is good. The humming of a box fan can be soothing, as can soft playing music.

Use Thundershirts or other snug garments. The shirts apply gentle, constant pressure on a dog’s torso and are designed to comfort the animals.

5. Ask your veterinarian for advice. Your doctor may have more ideas or even prescribe medication if needed.

Star-Telegram research, Webmd.com

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