Unhappy New Year: Fireworks increase anxiety in pets

HARLINGEN — Squeals, frightened looks, pee accidents and uncontrollable barking are just a few of the symptoms fireworks cause on animals.

According to Terran Tull, Operations Director for the Harlingen Humane Society, the reason pets get so distraught is because they are not used to such a loud noise.

They are put out of their comfort zone, which causes them to react anxiously and fearful toward the noises.

“It is so scary for them because it is not something they hear on their typical day. It is something new and we can’t exactly explain to them like we would to anyone else in the world,” she said.

“For them it is just something loud and scary and they don’t know what it is. So obviously that is no fun for them,” Tull said.

Tull also said another triggering reason pets get rumbled up is because during the times fireworks are set their routines are changing.

This could be when family and friends are coming over and they are not used to them. And it means less time and attention from their owners.

All of that combined with the fireworks noise raises their stress levels.

Overall risks

Dogs and cats are able to listen to fireworks that are miles away because of their amplified hearing. Because of that they can still sense the noise even when a human can faintly hear it.

“Even though to us it sounds as if it is far away, for a dog and a cat that sound is amplified,” she said.

Jacky Conrad, Co-founder and President of Friends of Animal Rescue at South Padre Island, said holidays like New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July are the days when most pets get lost due to them running away from fear.

“People need to know their animals are scared of them and they don’t understand what they are,” Conrad said.

“They are trying to find comfort and a safe place and that is why they run away,” she said.

What to do

Both Tull and Conrad gave tips on what to do when pets are anxious because of fireworks.

The main advice is to keep pets inside as much as possible.

“Most animals cannot handle the noise and will break a leash and take off,” Conrad said.

In case your pet runs away, Conrad advises to get the pet microchipped beforehand and check every local shelter.

Putting background music or noise such as television can help mask the noise.

“They are still going to get scared inside but at least they won’t run away,” Conrad said.

In case your pet gets too stressed there is a possibility to get prescribed medicine from a veterinarian for anxiety. This will help them and according to Tull and Conrad they are short-term and do not stay in their system for long.

“Give them a new toy and a special treat and play a soothing sound. Pair good things with the noise and it will hopefully help them out for next year,” Tull said.


– Keep pets inside household.

– Do not take them to watch fireworks.

– In case a pet runs away, make sure they are microchipped and check local shelters for status.

– Use television or music as background noise to mask the fireworks.

– In case your pet gets too anxious, try getting prescribed anxiety medicine from a veterinarian.