Tips to Keep Your Pet Happy and Safe on the Fourth of July

By Dana McMahan.

Fourth of July and all the festivities that come along with it may be fun for most of us, but all those fireworks aren’t exciting for every member of the family. I’m talking about your pets.

“If you think about it it’s amazing we’re not more terrified than we are,” co-founder Michelle Schenker told NBC News BETTER. “An exploding bomb sound in the air is scary, and if you don’t understand what it is it’s even scarier.”

These unexplained and extremely loud noises can frighten dogs and even cats into fearful behavior ranging from low-key to running away.

When pets and fireworks don’t mix

When the fireworks start you might see “shaking, pacing, panting, whining, shutting down emotionally, and trying to hide in a small, dark place similar to a den or cave like a closet or bathroom,” Pia Silvani, director of Behavior Rehabilitation at the ASPCA told NBC News BETTER. I’ve seen a 65 pound dog try to crawl into a litter box in a basement in response to a home fireworks show and it was heartbreaking — but not the worst that can happen.

Fearful dogs might also “cling to their owners, destroy property, soil the house or injure themselves when they hear a noise that upsets them,” Silvani went on. “Frantic attempts to escape may cause dogs to chew, scratch, dig and even jump out of windows.”

And if you’re outside with them and they’re not on a leash (even if they are!) they may be so startled or afraid as to bolt. A frightened dog may scale fences that they wouldn’t attempt under normal circumstances, Silvani said. A fun family occasion can turn into a nightmare in an instant if a dog gets lost or hit by a vehicle.

There are steps you can take to minimize the fear and risk to your pets. For starters, keep them at home and make sure windows and doors are securely closed. “Loud, crowded fireworks displays are no fun for pets (in general, regardless of their level of fear), who can become frightened or disoriented by the sound,” Silvani said. “Please resist the urge to take them to Independence Day festivities and opt instead to keep them safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home. They will be safer and calmer in a quiet, comfortable, and familiar space.”