Northwest Herald

Oliver: Use these tips to help reduce pets’ anxiety during Fourth of July fireworks

Whenever the Fourth of July comes around, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness.

A few years ago, I was driving home at the time when the sky was lit up just about everywhere with fireworks. I was with my mother, who had dementia, and my husband, who was early in his own journey with Alzheimer’s disease.

We were heading north along Route 31 on our way back to McHenry. As we crested the big hill around the area where there now is a garden center, I saw something small dart out in front of my car.

I scarcely had time to do anything as I realized that it was a little dog. I know that it wasn’t a direct hit, but I do know that I probably grazed it with my car. The speed limit there is 55 mph, so it wasn’t good.

That it also was pitch dark and along a state highway didn’t help. Stopping was not an option, and that haunts me to this day. My heart aches for the dog and for its family.

That’s why I was particularly interested in a news release that I came across from a veterinary group that offered tips to keeping pets safe during the Fourth of July. By taking precautions, perhaps we can keep other dogs from winding up where they could be hurt seriously or worse.

“Dogs and cats have a heightened sense of hearing, making the booming sounds of fireworks incredibly intense for them,” Dr. Anthony Coronado, Thrive Pet Healthcare’s vice president of emergency medicine, said in the release. “Unfamiliar and loud noises trigger their fight-or-flight response, leading to anxiety and confusion.”

No wonder so many pets become scared when all that noise begins. Here’s what Coronado suggests pets owners do to keep pets safe.

Microchip your pet: Microchipping is a safe and effective procedure that provides a unique identification code for your pet. By registering your pet in a microchip database, you can ensure easy identification and a higher chance of reunion if they become lost.

Remove potential escape routes: Check fencing for openings or weaknesses that could allow a pet to escape. Secure collars and harnesses properly to prevent slipping away. Ensure the barriers are free of sharp edges that could harm your pet. Limit access to windows and glass doors to prevent pets from breaking through the glass to escape.

Stick to routine: Maintain your pet’s daily routine leading up to the fireworks. Dogs and cats thrive on consistency, and sticking to their regular care schedule helps reduce anxiety.

Natural remedies for anxious pets: Explore natural or herbal-based products such as chewable supplements, herbal sprays or anxiety jackets to help ease your pet’s stress. Consult your veterinarian before using any supplements to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Tire them out: Engage your pet in additional exercise and playtime throughout the cooler parts of the day to help drain their energy before the fireworks begin. This can be particularly effective for pets that tend to get amped-up around fireworks.

Anxiety medications: If your pet’s anxiety becomes a significant issue, consult with your veterinarian about anxiety medications that can be prescribed. Discuss the pros and cons of these medications in advance of the fireworks.

Have a plan for unexpected illness or injury: Since your family veterinarian may be closed over the holiday, keep a list of nearby urgent care and emergency veterinary hospitals in case your pet becomes sick or injured.

When the fireworks are happening, Coronado recommends putting the pet in a safe space, one that is in a dark, secluded spot in the home, minimizing outside sounds and lighting, and offering positive reinforcement for calm behavior. If pet owners lead by example and remain calm, that reassures the pet that fireworks are not a threat.

Although this might not eliminate the pet’s anxiety about the fireworks, at least it should reduce the chances the pet will run away and put itself in danger.

Please keep your pets safe.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.