How to handle Fido's firework phobia

Planning on marking your Fourth of July with a bang? Then be aware that the noise might cause some Triangle pets to declare independence from their homes

lkendall@newsobserver.comJune 29, 2012 

  • Need more information? Contact the SPCA of Wake County at 919-772-2326 or visit spcawake.org/

— Planning on marking your Fourth of July with a bang? Then be aware that the noise from fireworks might cause your pet to declare independence from its home.

According to spokeswoman Mondy Lamb, the SPCA of Wake County sees a “marked increase” in both runaway dogs and cats around the holiday.

“The Fourth is a time when the most responsible pet owners can lose dogs,” Lamb said. “You can’t predict how a dog will react when it hears the ‘boom’ (of fireworks).”

Here are some tips to keep your pet safe over the holidays:

Keep them inside

Steve Wilson, aka “The Raleigh Dog Trainer,” advises owners to prepare for fireworks and loud noises well before the events kick off.

“It’s best to leave them at home and in the house,” Wilson said. “The dog doesn’t know what’s going on. We expect to hear the loud noises; (they) don’t.”

“Secure your dog or cat inside a room in the house,” Lamb adds, “and you have to do that in advance.”

Double tag them

Lamb says the traditional collar identification sometimes is not enough.

“We encourage pet owners to double ID their pets. Make sure they have a tag and microchips, and be sure to update your information in the microchip registry.”

Microchips are small electronic implants placed between an animal’s shoulder blades that can be scanned for vital information. They typically cost around $50 and are available at many veterinary clinics.

According to the SPCA, of the 18,297 animals that entered Wake County shelters in 2010, only 1 percent of cats and 6 percent of dogs were returned to their owners.

Swaddle them

For years during thunderstorms, Durham resident Phil Blizzard would wake up with his 50-pound mutt Dosi quivering on his chest.

After trying several different methods of calming her with no success, Blizzard took matters into his own hands. In early 2009 he developed the Thundershirt, a tight-fitting jacket that he says helps to calm animals.

Although there isn’t much hard science behind it, Blizzard said his invention boasts an 80 percent satisfaction rate and can be a good answer for owners with similar pet problems. Animal behavior expert Temple Grandin has also written about the benefits of applied pressure, he noted. Grandin, who has autism, invented a “squeeze machine” she used to control her own anxiety after observing how similar devices calmed cattle.

“We have a solution that works very well,” Blizzard said. “Unlike medication you don’t have to worry about side effects, you don’t have to anticipate, it’s much less expensive and you’re not just sedating your dog. It’s actually helping them be calmer.”

The $40 shirts, which are made for dogs and cats, can be ordered online at thundershirt.com.

Kendall: 919-932-8760

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