No-cost ways to calm an anxious pet during July 4th fireworks

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- What's spectacular to most of us is a nightmare to some.

If you have or have ever had a pet that's sensitive to noises then you know Fourth of July fireworks can bring anxiety to both pets and owners.

That includes Karina Ballester of Raleigh.

"I have had the personal experience of having to manage thunderstorm and noise phobia with my own dog," she said. "But it is very common in veterinary medicine and we see pets that need our help, at least need some advice, we see them all the time."

Ballester is a veterinarian at Creedmoor Road Animal Hospital and the owner of three dogs and a cat.

Why do we celebrate July 4th with fireworks?

One of those dogs is sensitive to noise which was a huge problem when she lived near the state fairgrounds in Raleigh since every night of the fair's fall run features a fireworks display.

"Every night at 9 we needed to be prepared because she was going to start showing her anxiety," she said.

Ballester used a product called a ThunderShirt developed by Durham company ThunderWorks.

It fits snugly on pets and mimics swaddling used to calm infants.

But there are plenty of no-cost remedies for pet anxiety.

July 4th pet owner guide: Fireworks safety, picnic items to keep out of reach and more tips

One is abundant exercise.

"Exercise is a great idea to reduce your pet's anxiety. Exercising a lot on the days leading up to the fireworks is a great idea but most importantly in the few hours leading up to the fireworks," Ballester said. "Exercise will increase endorphins that will let your pet relax and it will also likely be tired and sleepy and less attentive to the fireworks when they do happen."

You can also put blankets or a bed in a small enclosed space like a closet and confine your pet there.

And maybe add a music device.

"Sometimes playing classical music or music that's soothing but playing it loudly so that masks any other noises that may be going around the house are things that are very simple to do at home to distract them from the actual fireworks," Ballester said.

Confining a pet can also keep them from running away which many have done.

But just in case someone opens a door at an inopportune time, make sure your pets are wearing current ID tags or, if they are microchipped, that the chip is up-to-date.

Also, take a picture of your pet right now in case you need to post it online in a lost pet forum.

If none of Dr. Ballester's no-cost tips work, you might want to consider seeing her or another vet before the next summer thunderstorm.

"Most pets that have anxiety to fireworks also have anxiety to storms. So during the summertime, we get a lot of visits at the hospital," she said.

If necessary, a vet can prescribe sedatives.
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