SEBRING — Every time the Fourth of July fireworks go off, Jessica Groff’s 100-pound German shepherd runs and hides in the shower.
If Cheryl Sloan Brown is not home, her pointer will destroy the blinds on her French doors to escape.
“If I am home he shakes uncontrollably in my lap,” Brown said. She has tried giving her dog Xanax through a prescription from her veterinarian but it doesn’t help. “Needless to say, I try to spend the Fourth at home,” Brown said.
Some dogs, and less occasionally cats, are known to go berserk at the sound of thunder or fireworks — cower in a dark, safe spot; literally run through glass to escape; damage furniture or keep running aimlessly until the noise stops.
“The sound is so piercing (to dogs),” said Laura Van Horn with the Heartland Dog Club.
Their hearing ability is far above ours and they can hear over greater frequencies.
How Fido reacts to fireworks may also depend on how he was raised.
The sound may not bother a hunting dog that is used to the sound of gun shots but may make another pooch miserable, she explained.
Her best advice to dog owners is to keep their animals secure at home so they don’t try to take off in fright.
Van Horn crate-trains all her dogs so it’s like their safe haven. Whenever they are accosted by strange noises, they run and hide in their crates.
It’s a sentiment Highlands County Animal Control Director Darryl Scott shares. The day after July 4th, his office gets phone calls from both owners of lost pets or residents who have found somebody else’s scared pooch.
“They freak out over the sound,” he said, reminding dog owners that their pets may not enjoy a fireworks display as much as them.
Scott’s own dog has his routine. When thunder or fireworks cackle in the distance, his dog runs into its crate and stays there until the noises subside.
“He’s on guard. He freaks out,” Scott said. “He doesn’t know what it is.”
Some years, Animal Control has had eight to nine lost dog complaints after July 4th. Other times, it has been three to four.
“Properly secure your dog or at least put it on a leash if you have it outside,” Scott advised. “Get to a place it feels safe and ride out of the storm.”
For pet owners who want to try to calm their pets’ nerves through medication, a light sedation pill could be prescribed through their vet, but that is given by a pet owner’s routine vet and if the pet is healthy, said vet technician Brittany Gross with Gissendanner Veterinary Clinic.
Some stores also sell Thundershirts or Thundercoats to help control animals’ anxiety attacks.
It’s a snug vest that can be velcroed on a dog and comes in various sizes, said Jennifer Swaine, with Dogtown USA.
It’s very much like swaddling a baby to make it feel snug like it was in its mother’s womb.
Swaine has tried the Thundershirt on her 70-pound pitbull and she said it helps her dog.
“It depends on the dog,” she said. “The vest wraps around tightly and it makes a dog feel comfortable or secure.”