What Is Freedom From Panic?

july 4th lost pets

When we think of freedom for our pets, we imagine long, rolling fields of wildflowers where they can run freely, leaping about to their heart’s content.  We might even think of this happening without their collar being on. But freedom also implies the absence of fear, and the provision for freedom of choice.

The 4th of July is a celebration of freedom everywhere in the US.  Everywhere, often, except our own backyards and living rooms.  For our pets can feel anything but free from panic.  And we sometimes do not think about all the choices we might for how to alleviate this.

No one really knows how many pets flee in a panic from their homes during holidays like the 4th of July and Labor Day, where fireworks are present.  Animal shelters all over simply report that they are inundated with pets that panicked at the noise and fled their yards or homes, winding up lost, injured…or even killed.

scary fireworks

Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe On Fireworks Holidays

Keep your Pet Indoors–To you, fireworks might be the highlight of the summer–but to your pet, it can be terrifying.  Dogs never known to have jumped fences or walls,or ever have broken from restraint, can go to amazing lengths to get away when they are panicked.

Leave Your Pet at Home When Going To See Fireworks–Pets that are normally quite calm can become quite desperate to get away in crowds of strange people and smells, fireworks not withstanding.  And, as we know, leaving them in a car is not an option, either.


Another Choice For Pets

If you cannot keep pets comfortable at home or leave them home alone during holiday festivities, find a safe, secure boarding facility (preferably, cage-free) where they can have a lot of fun and never know anything happened.  This way, you can enjoy the holiday yourself, knowing they are being kept somewhere securely and are enjoying themselves.  And don’t forget that people often set off fireworks a day or so before–and after–the holiday.

NEVER Keep or Use Fireworks Around Pets–Most people realize pets can be injured by fireworks.  But did you know that even unused fireworks can be hazardous? Some fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as arsenic, potassium nitrate, and other heavy metals.


Thundershirt Is Not A Person

Many pet owners have success with using the Thundershirt pressure wrap to calm their pets during storms as well as the fireworks holidays.  But it doesn’t work for all dogs…and you must follow the instructions on getting your dog used to wearing the device.  Noted animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, who helped develop the Thundershirt, has also stated that after about 20 minutes, its effectiveness diminishes.  So if an extended episode of noise is in the cards for your pet, this might not be the best option, even if it has worked for brief periods.

I read a story the other day of a woman simply hugging her dog during storms and fireworks–not restraining the dog, but offering brief, comforting pressure.  This worked so well that the dog would return to her when it was panicked, for more hugs!

So keep in mind…a thundershirt is not the same as having a human there to give comfort.  Pets absolutely know it is we that protect them.

dog with half moon eye

Signs of Panic in Dogs

  • One Paw Raised–cute, but denotes worry
  • Half Moon Eye (white of the eye shows in a half moon. Looks like the pic above.)
  • Displacement Behaviors (behaviors that substitute for panic aggression) such as:

yawning when not tired
licking chops without the presence of food
sudden scratching when not itchy
sudden biting at paws or other body part
sudden sniffing the ground or other object
wet dog shake when not wet or dirty

  • Avoidance Behaviors:

gets up and leaves an uncomfortable situation
turning head away
hiding behind person or object
barking and retreating
rolls over on back in submissive way

  • Other Behaviors:

tail between legs
tail low and only the end is wagging
tail between legs and wagging
tail down or straight for curly-tailed dog (husky, malamute, pug, chow chow, spitz-type dogs etc.)
ears sideways for erect eared dog
ears back and very rapid panting
dog goes into another room away from you and urinates or defecates

fireworks cat

Things To Know About Panic In Cats

A cat’s sense of hearing is far more acute than that of dogs and humans!  A cat can hear sounds up to 64,000 kHz.  By comparison, dogs can hear sounds up to 45,000 kHz, while humans hear sounds only up to 23,000 kHz.  For this reason, sounds are much more intense for cats.  Here are some tips for your cat:

Create A Hideout!–This can be a chair covered with a blanket, a comfy  nest in the back of the closet or bathroom, anything that feels like a cozy wild cat den.  If you can, notice the place they typically hide when they need to get away, and use that.  Shelter it from the noise and light coming in at windows, and get your cat to seek out this safe zone before fireworks begin. Stimulate positive feelings in this place with treats and cuddles.  You can even use catnip, as long as your kitty is the type that gets relaxed with it, and not hyper.  It’s also a good idea to turn on the lights around the house, which will help mute the flashes from fireworks.

Be Cautious With Adding Sounds–Sometimes, pet parents think if they turn up the TV or stereo so it’s louder than whatever’s going on outside, they can fool their pet into thinking they’re safe.  But the resultant noise is usually more stressful than helpful.  There is a variety of calming music for pets.  It’s a good idea to get your pet used to this special music at least a few days before you have need of it.  After a time, they will come to associate it with peace and calm.

Check these links to see what we recommend.

Through a Dog’s Ear

Through a Cat’s Ear.

Homeopathic Remedies–Feliway (cat appeasing pheromones), Spirit Essences, HomeoPet, and Pet Rescue Remedy are extremely helpful.  You can find these at most health food stores or animal supply stores.  Applying a few drops to their food, water, or directly into their mouths BEFORE the booms begin can do wonders for stress levels!  Essential oils such as lavender and valerian can also help with various anxieties. You’ll want to check with your veterinarian before using any of these, for their thoughts on what is best for your pet.

Signs of Panic In Cats

Body – crouched directly on top of all fours, shaking
Belly – not exposed, rapid breathing
Legs – bent
Tail – close to the body
Head – lower than the body, motionless
Eyes – fully open
Pupils – fully dilated
Ears – fully flattened back on the head
Whiskers – back
Vocalisation – plaintive miaow, yowling, growling or silent
Hissing, growling, shaking, drooling
Involuntary urination, defecation
Aggression if approached

We certainly hope this article has helped to give you some choices for your pet to keep them safe and relaxed during the summer holidays.  Please feel free to call or e-mail me at any time with questions and comments.

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area.  She is also a  syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.