Is your pet frightened by fireworks? Here’s what to do this Fourth of July weekend.

Sarge, a 6-month-old male Labrador mix dog, looks on at PAWS Chicago Medical Center in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood on March 6, 2020.

Sarge, a 6-month-old male Labrador mix dog, looks on at PAWS Chicago Medical Center in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood on March 6, 2020. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)

With the Fourth of July approaching, many Americans are eager to celebrate with family, fun and food.

But there are some ways pet owners can help make this weekend less painful for their animals.

Here are some tips and advice Chicagoland animal welfare experts have for pet owners when fireworks are going off all over.

If a pet owner knows ahead of time that their pet becomes anxious during fireworks, they should consult a veterinarian for treatment.

“If they know ahead of time that their dog is noise sensitive, they should probably contact their vet ahead of time, because there are medications that can lower anxiety,” said Joan Harris, director of canine training and behavior at PAWS, Illinois’ largest animal shelter.

Whitney Armstrong, director of Joliet Township Animal Control, encouraged people to take their pets outside to relieve themselves before it gets dark and the fireworks start.

Owners should look for quieter, more comfortable places to put their pets while fireworks are exploding. Closets, basements and rooms in the interior of a house often work best, animal welfare experts said.

To create a more soothing environment, pet owners can also play music, sounds from a television or white noise to help drown out the thunderous fireworks.

The Joliet animal facility plays music over its radio system on the Fourth of July, Armstrong said.

If a pet shows signs of discomfort or fear, a pet owner should not hesitate to cuddle with or comfort it.

“That is a total fallacy that says you should never comfort your dog when they’re frightened,” Harris said.

Melissa Klett, a behavior specialist with the Anti-Cruelty Society, agreed.

“Fear is such an unpleasant emotion for your dog that doing something in that moment that they like is not going to cause them to associate the fear with comfort, said Klett. “All you’re doing is calming them, not reinforcing that bad behavior.”

Help your pet find its way home if it runs off

A lot of pets are lost over the July Fourth weekend because of their reaction to fireworks, Harris said. The day after Independence Day is notoriously one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters across the country, including Chicago’s Animal Care and Control facility, which typically receives a lot of stray dogs after the holiday.

Animal specialists strongly recommend pets have collars and tags and are microchipped with updated contact information, so they can quickly be identified and returned home if they get lost.

“You never know when there is going to be an accident,” Klett said. “Maybe someone goes through the door and isn’t looking, and the cat just freaks and runs, or a branch falls and breaks a window.” If your pet’s microchip is up-to-date, your pet can be easily reunited with you.”

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