Tips that can help keep pets calm during Fourth of July celebrations

By: Charity Meier | Metro | Published July 3, 2024

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METRO DETROIT — As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, pet owners need to be mindful of their animals’ anxiety. Elaborate fireworks displays, although beautiful to human eyes, for animals, especially dogs, can bring a vast amount of fear and tension.

“It’s best to please not take your pets to fireworks displays,” said Heather Robertson, a veterinarian at Animal Emergency Center in Novi. “I do think it freaks them out, some of them, and it’s more stress to them.”

Joanie Toole, chief of the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center, said that on average at least 20 dogs come through the shelter who have run away from home after getting scared because of fireworks.

To help keep dogs calm during the festivities, Robertson recommended keeping them away from windows and doors. She suggested having things turned on that create more pleasant sounds, such as music or the television.

“Keep them in an area of the house where you can hang with them, you can chill with them if you want to. But, like, if you are going downstairs to the basement, have on music, have on the TV. Or if there’s, like, the exhaust fan in the bathroom is pretty loud or the laundry room or something like that, turn those fans on to go ahead and kind of deaden the noise,” Robertson said.

She suggested getting the animal acclimated to this type of location and scenario prior to the fireworks, so that the location is just another place to go and not equated to scary noises outside.

Pet stores also offer an array of different things to help keep dogs calm. This includes a large variety of calming treats, toys and even “ThunderShirts.” According to the company website,, the ThunderShirt “applies gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, fear, and over-excitement issues.”

“You put it around the dog and it kind of gives, like, a coddling feeling,” said Sarah Hanscom, general manager of Pet Supplies Plus in Royal Oak.

Along with music or background noise, Hanscom suggested using various toys and dog puzzles that involve treats to keep dogs occupied and thus distracted from the noise of the fireworks.

“Keep them somewhat occupied,” Hanscom said. “As occupied as you can. I realize that when a dog is scared, a dog is scared, but try and give distractions.”

However, in some cases an animal’s anxiety is just too high and pet owners should go ahead and take their pets to the vet. Robertson said that in some cases veterinarians prescribe either one of two sedatives, trazodone and acepromazine. Trazodone is most commonly used for separation anxiety or the dog who needs to be kept quiet at home.

Robertson said that people have to remember that they can’t just start the medication at the time of the fireworks. She said that it takes time for the medication to kick in and for the animal to get acclimated to it. She said that the medication should be started the day before the event, or at least that morning. Trazodone in particular is something that can be given every eight hours. So she said the dog would be able to get the medication the morning prior to the event and then again in the afternoon or evening so that it would be completely in the dog’s system.

“I think too many people try to give things too late and then they are like, ‘It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help.’ Well, no. You’re behind the eight ball because it takes time for things to kick into their system and what have you,” Robertson said.

She said she would recommend that people not wait until the holiday to contact their vet about these issues. She said they should contact their vets now and prepare and start medication ahead of time.

Dogs that run away during events such as fireworks are typically picked up by local police departments. Cmdr. Jason Meier, of the Novi Police Department, said they don’t usually have a lot of issues with lost dogs in Novi, even during the Fourth of July holiday.

“If we do come across them, we take them to the vet to see if they are chipped first. If they are chipped, we can return them to the owner; if not, we hold them on-site until the next day when animal control can pick them up,” Meier said.