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Fireworks might panic some pets

June 30, 2005|by ADAM BEHSUDI

WASHINGTON COUNTY

adamb@herald-mail.com

While local residents look forward to fireworks this weekend, their canine friends might spend most of the time cowering in fear.

Area veterinarians said the noise from fireworks is enough to throw some pets into a panic.

Virginia Scrivener, a veterinarian at the Animal Health Clinic of Funkstown, said it's best to work with your dog to help it overcome its fear and anxiety.

"It's like the first time you take your child to fireworks," Scrivener said.

Reassuring the dog and showing it that you aren't startled yourself will help the dog overcome its fear of the noise, she said.

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Because dogs have such sensitive hearing, they often can hear loud noises further away, Scrivener said. Desensitizing the dog to loud noises or distracting them might help with potential anxiety problems.

Scrivener said most dogs aren't afraid of fireworks, but those that are might show signs of anxiety in the form of pacing, urinating, howling, shaking or hiding.

"If they're really bad, (owners) need to seek veterinarian assistance, either from a behavioralist or medication that can take the edge off," Scrivener said.

On most days, things are pretty calm off Cleveland and Radcliffe avenues, except when fireworks start at nearby Municipal Stadium after some game nights. The dogs that live here are no strangers to loud noises.

Richard Heiks said his golden retriever, Luke, has a cage he goes into during the fireworks.

"It seems he feels like that protects him," Heiks said.

Although Heiks is an avid Hagerstown Suns fan and appreciative of the events that the organization puts on, it's uncertain whether his dog feels the same way, at least about the fireworks.

"He tolerates it, but that's about all," Heiks said.

As Rebecca Hovermale was picking peas off a vine in the backyard of her Cleveland Avenue home, her small black dog, Brandy, romped around in the grass. However, when the fireworks are shot off down the street, the backyard is not a likely place to find her dog.

"She hates those fireworks," Hovermale said. "She just screams and barks and cries."

Hovermale said she usually has to hold her dog to calm her down and keeps her in the house when the fireworks displays at Municipal Stadium occur.

Joy Sampson, an animal control dispatcher with the Humane Society of Washington County, said there usually is an increase in lost dogs after the July Fourth weekend. She said a lot of dogs will bolt out of fear and end up lost as they try to escape the noise. Sampson said there also is an increase in lost dogs after severe thunderstorms.

Sampson cautioned people against taking their pets to fireworks shows unless the dog can handle both the loud noises and large crowds.

"We recognize people want their dog to be part of their family event," she said. "If they choose to take their dog, please make sure the dog is leashed and under control."




Tips to help your pet cope


The following tips are offered to help your dog deal with potential anxiety during this weekend's fireworks displays.

  • Reassure or comfort your dog. Make it known through your own expressions that the situation isn't threatening or dangerous.

  • Modify your dog's behavior by desensitizing it to loud noises, which can be done by recording them and playing them back.

  • Distract your dog by playing a game with it, turning on background music or running the vacuum cleaner to drown out the noise.
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