A Safe and Happy Holiday for Your Pet
Posted December 12, 2018
With New Year’s Eve around the corner, it is important to
remember that many pets, especially dogs, are frightened by loud
and sudden noises such as fireworks or thunder. This fear can range
from mild anxiety to full panic, which can lead to dangerous
There are many reasons why fireworks and thunderstorms can cause
fear in dogs. Kit Darling, infection control coordinator at the
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences, explains some of these reasons and has advice for
comforting scared dogs during these situations.
With excellent auditory senses, dogs can hear better than humans
in both range and frequency, Darling said. If a noise is already
loud to human ears, it is even louder for dogs. They are also often
scared by sudden flashes of light.
“Dogs like predictability and routine,” Darling said. “Both
fireworks and thunderstorms disrupt routines and are unpredictable.
Dogs may feel stress when they do not know what is happening.”
Dogs may also be frightened by fireworks or thunderstorms, if
they have had a traumatic experience with loud noises in the
While some dogs become anxious in by these situations, others may
not have a reaction at all.
“Dogs, like people, may react differently to stress and negative
experiences. Some dogs might be naturally easygoing, or they may
have been exposed to loud noises when they were young,” Darling
Desensitizing puppies to loud, sudden noises can help reduce
fear later in life; puppies can be trained between the ages of 3
weeks and 3 months to associate these sounds with positive rewards,
rather than fear, according to Darling.
If a dog does show fear in response to loud noises, Darling said
it is important that owners not take the dog to a fireworks
“Keep your dog inside during fireworks and thunderstorms.
Provide them with a special area in which they can feel safe, such
as their crate or bed,” she said.
She also suggested covering windows to block flashing lights and
putting the dog in an anxiety wrap, which provides a gentle,
constant pressure that helps to reduce fear and anxiety.
Darling also recommends playing with dogs or giving them chew
toys to distract them from the loud noises. Playing soft music or
having the TV on can also help. She said it is very important to
stay calm and relaxed, as dogs can sense people’s emotions and tend
to react in a similar way.
“If your dog continues to be frightened by fireworks or
thunderstorms, make an appointment with your veterinarian or
veterinary behaviorist to discuss additional behavior measures or
medications,” Darling advised.
Darling warned that scared dogs may use drastic measures to
escape and run, so it is best to walk dogs before fireworks
“If you have to go outside with your dog, keep it on a leash,”
she said. “Be sure your dog is microchipped and/or has
identification tags with current contact information.”
In addition to keeping dogs calm during fireworks, there are
other ways to keep them safe during the holiday season.
Darling reminds pet owners to avoid feeding dogs dangerous foods
such as turkey skin or dark meat, turkey bones, garlic, sage,
onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, chocolate, bread dough,
the artificial sweetener xylitol, alcohol, and human
All pets should be kept away from decorative plants, flowers,
candles, foil, and electrical cords. Finally, because dogs may
become scared or overwhelmed when a lot of visitors are over, it is
important to provide them with a quiet area of the house to which
The holiday season is best when spent with family, including
pets. It is important to keep those pets safe and happy so that
they can enjoy this time of the year as much as we do.
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can
be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for
future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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