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Fireworks have become a staple of American Independence Day celebrations, and they're also sometimes used to ring in the new year. They're bright, they're festive, and they're fun. For animals, though, the bright lights and loud noises of fireworks can be so frightening that they cause severe agitation or even seizures.


Fear of fireworks is similar to fear of thunderstorms: it typically occurs in dogs rather than cats, and the reason for the fear can be difficult to determine. Sometimes the fear is deeply ingrained because of a bad experience the dog had as a puppy during the imprint stage (from 8 to 16 weeks), but there's very little rhyme or reason to which dogs are affected by the noises and which aren't. Animals are more sensitive to sounds than humans are, so the sights and sounds associated with fireworks are more severe to their heightened senses.


The danger of fireworks for dogs is twofold. First, the explosions can cause severe agitation that might lead to shaking, panting, or in severe cases, seizures. The other danger is that dogs sometimes injure themselves trying to get to shelter if they're left outside during firework season. A dog might paw her feet bloody while trying to get in the door, or she might jump through a closed window in order to get inside the house and cut herself severely. 

So what can you do as an owner to reduce the effects of fireworks on your dog? There are medications for controlling anxiety, and you might want to talk to your veterinarian about them if your pet has a history of bad reactions to loud noises and/or bright flashes of light. In Texas, firework stands open 10 days before July 4, so the end of June and the start of July are typically the busiest times for the setting off of fireworks. (There's also a small window around January 1 when fireworks are popular in some areas.)

The best method for handling a pet that reacts negatively to loud noises is to keep her inside and as calm as possible. There is a product called the Thundershirt that fits snugly around a dog's body and helps to keep the dog calm by applying pressure around her trunk. Thundershirts are available at most major pet chains, including Petco and PetSmart. And if your dog has a history of seizures, she needs to be on her seizure medication faithfully throughout the firework season. Loud noises and bright flashes of light are a major trigger for epileptic seizures in dogs. 

It's rare for this sort of anxiety to require any sort of veterinary intervention. Pet owners can usually prevent any severe issues by taking precautions to ensure that their pets feel safe during storms and firework season.

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