The Fourth of July is cause for great celebration – for humans. More pets go missing on July 4th than any other day during the year. Shelters see an increase of 30 – 60% lost pets brought to them July 4-6. The excitement of parties, parades and cookouts topped with a canopy of glittery fireworks can mean celebrations for people, but incredibly anxious and downright frightening thoughts to unknowing pets who try to run away from what’s scaring them.
With help from the Heritage Humane Society, discover the holiday through your pets’ eyes and how to keep them feeling safe and calm during the festivities. Also, learn how a local hot dog eating contest is poised to care for homeless shelter pets.

Keeping dogs safe and calm

Greater Williamsburg’s Dog Trainer Extraordinaire, Adam Claar, knows all too well that dogs’ families are often eager to include them in traditional Fourth of July celebrations. For dogs who often go wherever their human companions go, Claar encourages them to take a moment to consider how the festivities might actually be traumatic for their treasured furry friend.
Claar shares these helpful insights:
  • Fireworks: Your pet does not want to go see the fireworks. Please, leave them at home.
  • Cookouts: The Fourth of July barbecue before the fireworks may be even more dangerous. Tidewater Virginia’s climate is dangerous for dogs. High humidity means dogs can’t cool off. The excitement of people and delicious smells will make a dog’s temperature rise. The July heat will make it rise even more. NEVER lose track of your dog in this combination of heat, humidity and excitement. If you wait until they show that they are too hot, it’s too late.
  • Supplements: This advice is prefaced by stressing to always ask your vet first. There are several commercially available products that may help keep your dog calm. The safest option is an artificial calming pheromone commonly marketed as Adaptil that is available in both a spray or collar. Adaptil sends calming messages to your puppy or dog to help them feel calm and relaxed in stressful situations. There are also homeopathic chews and supplements that may help.
  • Soothing products: Turn on white noise on the television, device or in-home speaker. Another wonderful invention is a ThunderShirt or similar product. The pressure wrap acts as a tool for alleviating anxiety in dogs. For a noise and/or explosion-sensitive dog, these products are critical for Fourth of July panic prevention.
  • Hugs: Lastly, if your dog is terrified, it is absolutely ok to comfort them. You are not going to “teach them to be afraid” by alleviating their fear. If they seek comfort in your affection, give it to them. If a shaking, shivering, terrified dog says “please hold me,” then please do so.


Dog wearing a ThunderShirt


Caring for cats

Keeping cats calm during the celebrations of Fourth of July extends beyond outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats, and to indoor cats, too. The following tips from the Heritage Humane Society for keeping feline friends safe extends to canine companions, as well:
  • Collars: Be sure the cat is wearing a color with up-to-date contact information.
  • Picture: Have a current photo of your cat in case it escapes from the house or goes missing.
  • Play: Give the cat a good play session to wear them out before festivities begin.
  • Safe place: Place your cat in an escape-proof room before celebrations or fireworks begin
  • Soft sounds: Cover the noise of fireworks with soft sounds or music for indoor cats.
  • Prevent: Keep fireworks, charcoal and sparklers safely away from curious cats.