Critter Corner: When a Loved One or Pet is Distressed by Fireworks

Dear Hayek,

Tomorrow is the 4th of July and despite the coronavirus, I heard that our new neighbors will be putting on a big fireworks display. I’m concerned about my husband, who has dementia, and our senior dog, Hodge. What are some ways to deal with firework distress on the 4th of July?

Thanks for your help!

N. “Dee” Pendants

Dear Dee,

The Fourth of July is a time for celebration and summer fun. However, as you know, fireworks are synonymous with Independence Day.  In fact, according to USA Today, over one billion dollars is spent annually on fireworks for the 4th of July. That’s 285 million pounds of explosives each carrying an average of 150 decibels of sound, the same sound level of a jet plane taking off and significant enough to cause ear drum rupture.

Fireworks are loud and can also be felt in vibrations when launched with these decibels. It’s no wonder that Fourth of July celebrations can cause distress to pets, as well as to many elders, especially people with dementia. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help.

These are some tips for pet owners with pets that get nervous due to fireworks:

  • Go for walks early.
  • Give pets a safe place to hunker down.
  • Play soft music to distract them.
  • Keep them indoors, lower the blinds, and close windows. When scared, dogs and cats will break through screens or windows to escape their home.
  • Make sure your dog/cat is microchipped and the contact information on the microchip is up to date, or that your pet has an ID tag on them, in case they try and run away.

These are some tips for people with older family members who get nervous due to fireworks:

  • Talk about the fireworks prior to the holiday. Remind your loved one that the celebration is coming up and that they may begin to hear fireworks.
  • Suggest ear protection, play comforting music, turn on a fan for white noise and have an exit strategy if the experience is too overwhelming.
  • People who suffer from Sundown Syndrome are especially susceptible to firework distress as both incidents can occur at nearly the same time. Keep them inside a well-lit home until after the fireworks are done.

In cases of loved ones with significant ongoing anxiety, talk to their doctor prior to the Fourth of July and understand what symptoms demand medical attention.

Hope this is helpful and that your family has a happy July 4th!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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