Be careful - fireworks on the Fourth can really spook Fido

kbettis@newsobserver.comJuly 3, 2014 

  • Keep people safe, too

    Wayne Goodwin, North Carolina’s insurance commissioner and state fire marshal, recommends that state residents leave all fireworks shows to the professionals.

    If you do your own fireworks show, he offers the following notes:

    • Sparklers and firecrackers are the most common fireworks to start fires and cause serious burns.

    • In 2013, there were eight deaths and 11,400 injuries related to fireworks nationwide, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    • Hundreds of ER visits occur in North Carolina during July as a result of fireworks accidents.

    • Hand-held sparklers can burn at a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • Do not pick up or touch leftover fireworks, because they may still be active.

As tempting as it may be to bring Fluffy and Fido to watch the fireworks this weekend, animal experts say don’t do it.

The Independence Day weekend is infamous for runaway dogs and anxiety-induced animal reactions – all because of pyrotechnic displays.

Last July, the Durham Bulls mascot, Deuce, bolted with border collie speed during a fireworks show after a weekend game. He was gone for four days before being found.

Deuce’s owners were lucky. Sometimes, those runaway canines are gone for good.

Only about 15 percent of lost dogs entering shelters are ever reunited with their families, estimate the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy and the American Humane Association.

Locally, an average of 34 more animals per week entered the Wake County Animal Center during July Fourth week in 2012 and 2013 than in the week before the holiday.

It’s important to know your animal’s specific tendencies and fears, said Jennifer Federico, Wake County Animal Services director.

“We have three dogs that don’t mind fireworks, but my neighbor’s and mom’s dogs stress out,” she said.

The best option is to keep your pet indoors. If you have an outdoor dog, make sure it has a secure place to hide when the loud booms start, Federico said.

An invisible fence system in your yard could be useless if your animal is panicking. And even fenced yards can be risky, because many dogs will attempt to jump or break through loose sections, Federico added.

Animal experts agree that owners should not bring pets to parties, because a runaway pet could slip out the door unseen.

Anxiety-induced illness

In addition to problems with runaway dogs, veterinarians report more calls about stress and anxiety-related illnesses around the Fourth.

Fireworks can induce panic that results in stomach problems, elevated heart and respiratory rates, and injuries from attempting to escape, said Sharon Zeigler, a veterinary technician at Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital. She recommends locking a pet in a closed-off room with white noise to minimize sound.

Although some owners may be tempted to use sedative drugs on their pets, Zeigler said that could make the situation worse.

“It causes them to become hyper-sensitive to noises,” Zeigler said. “Now they’re drunk and hyperactive instead of just hyperactive.”

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County offers a tip that may both help and treat your dog – distract it with a toy or food.

So, while you are eating hot dogs and ice cream and watching the fireworks, Fido can calmly munch on a rawhide.

Bettis: 919-829-8955; Twitter: @whatakaracter

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