Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Pet Talk

December 22, 2010

Fireworks can cause anxiety, fear

College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences —

As the New Year approaches, so does time for celebrations and fireworks. Fireworks are a celebratory gesture, but many people don't realize the implications they may have on animals.

According to Dr. Audrey Cook, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), most pets are startled by fireworks and experience some degree of anxiety because of the unfamiliar loud noises and flashes of light they portray.

Aside from anxiety and fear, some pets can experience physical pains from firework encounters.

"A direct injury from a firework is unlikely, but could happen," explains Cook. "In fact, the most common problems we see reflect the pet's desperate efforts to escape from perceived danger. Cats may hide and run away and be injured in the process. Dogs may also hurt themselves trying to get away from the noise."

"Any injured pet should be examined by a veterinarian," notes Cook. "Particularly worrying injuries would include anything on the face, mouth, or eyes. Bleeding wounds or burns should be loosely covered by a clean napkin to reduce further damage or infection before medical help is provided."

Cook recommends approaching an injured pet with care as it can sometimes bite due to fear and pain. The best thing to do is to move slowly and gently wrap the injured pet in a blanket to provide some reassurance and to reduce the risk of biting.

If your pet experiences anxiety from fireworks the best strategy is to simply act normal, because if you change your behavior your pet will notice. This will only reinforce its fears as your body language and behavior can tell your pet a lot.

"Easing their fears is difficult, and sometimes we actually increase anxiety when we try to reassure a frightened dog or cat," said Cook. "Our reaction tells them that fear is appropriate and we can actually heighten their response if we make a big fuss."

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