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Holiday fireworks can have a big impact on our pets

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There were no big fireworks shows to mark Canada Day this week, but that loss of a traditional part of the celebration had an upside in the form of animal welfare.

“We typically do see an increase in a lot of animals [going missing/running away] due to fireworks. This year, we’re hoping that the numbers won’t be as great, said Anya Barradas of the Kitchener, Waterloo, Stratford Perth Human Society ahead of Wednesday’s holiday.

Though the typical displays aren’t on tap, there are likely to be some fireworks courtesy of those residents who light up the night sky from their own properties.

“Fireworks are fun for people, but, unfortunately, fireworks can be scary for pets. We recommend that pet owners keep their pets indoors during fireworks whenever possible,” said Barradas.

The organization has a checklist of good practices for safeguarding pets during fireworks displays.

The first of these tips is to tire out the animal. “We recommend that they (owners) take a long walk with their dog prior to sunset, so their dog is relaxing, and it also helps them get more tired out so the fireworks are not bothering them as much.”

She also explained that “during fireworks … it could help to play some soothing sounds or maybe even some white noise.”

Barradas also suggests you ensure your animals remain hydrated, especially dogs that may be panting from the overwhelming stress and over-stimulation caused by the celebratory display and noises that come with it. For those extreme cases, when animals have a severe reaction or have suffered a past response to fireworks, “we recommend that the pet owners consult their veterinarian about potentially using a sedative.”

Pets that react severely to the intensity of fireworks can display symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people.

“It definitely could have an effect, just like with humans. Not every human takes fireworks the same way. Some [pets] are adapted to be completely fine with it, and it could not bother them at all.

“Cats, they have very sensitive ears, so they try to run away and hide. Dogs also because it can be a very traumatic experience for them, and they try to escape by digging under fences or breaking through windows and through gates. This is the way typically we do see an increase during celebrations of a lost pet.

“Me personally, my family has a lot of Shih Tzus. We have one dog that’s completely fine with it, and then another one that hides out under the bed … so it’s really dependent on the pet’s personality, and, definitely, their past experiences could have a role to play in it as well.”

The Kitchener Waterloo Stratford Perth Humane Society reminds dog owners they’re required to license their pets annually, noting that a tag can help reunite them should the animal go missing or get lost, as in the case of running away from fireworks.

While adoptions from shelters have increased during the COVID-19 shutdown, there’s been a decline in registrations and licensing, Barradas noted.

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