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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Safety

The most terrifying time of the year for pets

Some pets will anxiously pace around the house in fear, others will lose bladder or bowel control from the fright and many others will simply run away from home - never to be seen again by their families - to get away from the explosions and flashes.The cause of this irrational behavior is fireworks season, the most terrifying time of the year for cats and dogs. And your pet's chances of getting lost is at its height as many will runs miles away from home in an attempt to find solace, animal welfare officials warn.

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The American Animal Hospital Association is advising pet parents to take precautions to deal with the irrational behavior, anxiety and fear that their dogs and cats are likely to display during Independence Day celebrations.

“[Fireworks] can be very traumatizing for pets, especially dogs,” association President Michael Andrews states in a media release. “More animals are lost or injured during this time of year. But there are common sense precautions you can take to ensure your pet’s comfort and safety, and your own peace of mind.”

Julie Bedford, an animal behaviorist with The Blue Cross, a pet charity in Britain, says part of the reason why pets become so frightened is that the noise from fireworks creates an environmental change."The flashes and bangs of fireworks create a massive change to the usual environment of a pet, which is deeply unsettling and scary for them," Ms. Bedford states in a media release. "They will try and run away from the noise or find somewhere to hide and feel secure."

Pet parents must avoid overreacting and over comforting their dogs and cats, Ms. Bedford says. "When pets are anxious or distressed, it is instinctive for their owners to cuddle and comfort them, but this can stress the animal even more because they will think that their owners are worried too. The best thing owners can do is to let their pet settle in a chosen den and remain as normal as possible."

The American Animal Hospital Association offers these tips:
  • Never leave your pet unattended. If you will be away from home, make arrangements to board him at your veterinarian’s office or a professional kennel.
  • Keep your pet inside in a basement or another room where outside noise can be minimized. Turn on a radio and provide his favorite chew toy and blanket.
  • Play with your pet to keep him preoccupied when the noise is the greatest. Resist the temptation to physically comfort him if he is afraid. This may reinforce his fear.
  • Make sure that your pet is wearing an identification tag should he become lost and make sure visitors keep doors closed.
  • If you take your dog for a walk, keep him on a leash.
  • Consult with a veterinarian about medications that may help relieve your pet’s stress.
Blue Cross also offers these tips:
  • Keep your pet indoors when fireworks are expected.
  • Never shout at a frightened pet because this will increase his stress.
  • Praise your pet when he is calm.
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  • Check your pet regularly and if you can, stay with him during the fireworks. Your presence is probably the most important calming influence for your pet.

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