It’s known that most dogs are terrified of fireworks.
They’ll pace, hide, and even tremble due to extreme stress. (Poor Fidos!)
This leaves us one big question…
Can fireworks end up killing canines?
Find the truth in this article!
Read on to also learn:
- 9 dangerous effects of fireworks on dogs.
- When do they fully recover from a terrifying night?
- Signs of an anxious Fido that you may have overlooked.
- If stress, along with anxiety can cause death in canines or not.
- 7 tips on how to block out fireworks’ noise for dogs and help them feel safe.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
- Can dogs die from stress of fireworks?
- 9 dangerous effects of fireworks on dogs
- #1: They cause stress
- #2: They make dogs feel trapped
- #3: They could also activate a ‘startle reaction’
- #4: They may prompt a ‘fight or flight’ response
- #5: They can cause physical injuries
- #6: They give psychological distress
- #7: They can start a noise aversion
- #8: They could trigger a past trauma
- #9: They worsen underlying health conditions
- 7 tips on how to keep your dog calm during fireworks
- People also ask:
Can dogs die from stress of fireworks?
Dogs can’t die directly from the stress of fireworks alone. But the explosions and flashing lights can cause psychological distress, noise phobia, and the triggering of past trauma. And all of these could lead to health problems, disruption of daily activities, and sometimes, serious injuries.
9 dangerous effects of fireworks on dogs
#1: They cause stress
While other Fidos are calm during fireworks displays…
Most dogs, on the other hand, won’t stop pacing and barking.
No matter their reaction, it’s likely a sign that the dog is stressed from fireworks. And this is due to many reasons:
First, they’re startled by the sudden loud noises.
And it doesn’t stop there, as the ‘bangs’ will go on for hours – or worse, days. (Which is a total nightmare for Fidos and dog parents!)
Also, canines can hear higher frequencies than us. So they’ll be annoyed and stressed out.
Second, they don’t know where all the sounds are coming from. And this feeling is more stressful for dogs.
If there’s a sudden burst, they can’t point out each of them. And they also have no means of determining when and where the next explosion will come from.
Lastly, if they’re by the window, they could also see sudden sparks in the dark sky. These, with unexpected sounds, can cause a sensory overload.
Especially to a fearful pooch. Or those who aren’t used to hearing loud noises.
#2: They make dogs feel trapped
Fireworks don’t blow up once, all at the same time.
You can hear an explosion on your left. Then a few seconds later, there’s another bang on your right.
And this scenario will carry on for hours which could make dogs feel like they’re surrounded.
They would feel like they’re unable to escape these jarring sounds. Because no matter where they go, they can still hear them.
This then results in great stress and anxiety.
So some Fidos will hide and dig hard as an instinct to look for an escape route. While others panic and destroy things in the house.
#3: They could also activate a ‘startle reaction’
All animals have a quick reflex as a survival instinct.
It’s a natural response of both their mind and body to protect themselves against a threat. And this is why giving dogs a shock would be a terrible idea.
But we, humans, have it too. In fact, babies have it at birth. And it’ll fade as they grow and develop until 6 months old.
This is called ‘moro reflex.’ It helps them to guard themselves from danger in their first days.
And this explains the random jabs, twitches, and grasps.
Well, going back to Fidos.
You might ask, “What are the things that activate this reaction in them?”
It can set right off when something unexpected happens. Say, when they’re suddenly touched while sleeping.
So better keep your hands off of them while they’re resting. As they can do things involuntarily like snapping or biting.
And in this case, sudden blasts and blinding lights could trigger this.
They’re a bolt from the blue as those things happen without notice. Plus, they can’t get used to them unless they’re trained.
So some dogs jerk their heads and bark as soon as they hear an explosion. While others instantly run away and hide.
You may also like: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pet Dogs While They’re Asleep
#4: They may prompt a ‘fight or flight’ response
As one saying goes,
“People are afraid of things they don’t understand.”
But this also applies to dogs and other animals. And for them, fireworks could be one of the biggest mysteries on Earth.
They don’t understand how they work and where they are coming from. As well as the festive events that the people are celebrating.
And for this reason, canines may perceive them as a threat. Which can lead to a psychological reaction called ‘fight or flight.’
You probably heard of this already. But let me explain it briefly.
When dogs feel threatened, their body produces hormones. And these will cause changes such as:
- Heightened senses.
- Rapid blood flow to muscles.
- Raised heart and breathing rate.
- High blood pressure and sugar levels.
These, along with the adrenaline rush, will help them confront the problem or flee from it.
“But how do they choose between those two?”
The answer would be instinct for wild animals. Like how predators always choose to fight while preys flight.
But for domesticated hounds, it’s mainly past experiences that dictate this. So it’ll depend on the situation.
And in this case, Fidos don’t understand their ‘enemy.’
They know they can’t attack fireworks. So they’ll usually do the latter to survive.
Some may decide to hide, or seek their human’s comfort until the explosions stop. While others might run away as far as they can just to escape.
Which is dangerous as…
#5: They can cause physical injuries
Fireworks can harm dogs physically when they’re too close to the explosion.
However, this is rarely the case. And it’s usually their actions that put them in danger.
Based on a study in New Zealand, 6% or 51 out of 923 dogs and cats hurt themselves while escaping from fireworks.
This being said, no one can’t blame them for doing such things. As flight response takes over their body in times of panic.
And as mentioned before, dogs have different reactions to a threat.
Some will hide and stay inside. While others would panic and do what their instincts say. Even if it’s dangerous.
It’s natural for canines to run for their lives. So some may jump off the fence or break their chains.
Others could also leap through the windows. And they’ll badly hurt themselves from doing this.
They can get into road accidents as well. And sadly, there are reports of fatalities.
But large breeds may do this too. So they might squeeze their bodies anywhere. Even into tiny spaces. Which may cause injuries or suffocation.
Warning: These might happen within a split second. So to prevent escapes, make sure they’re in a quiet room with you. And lock all the openings.
#6: They give psychological distress
Some dogs can tolerate a few loud bangs. Or even hours of constant explosions.
However, people tend to set some fireworks off several days before and after the actual event.
So this could surely give them anxiety in the long run. Whether they’re fearful or not.
It’s a continuous battle against something they don’t understand. And once they calm down after thinking the noises stop, there goes another one.
So there’s no time for them to recover. Which will result in constant worry that can affect other parts of the body as well.
Research shows that stress may cause stomach pains in dogs. As well as in humans.
It says that stress slows down the time it takes for food to cross the small intestines.
Also, experts reveal that high levels of cortisol or ‘stress hormones’ cause:
- Spasms in the esophagus.
- Increased acid in the stomach.
Everything in the body is connected. And they help one another to fight diseases.
70% of the immune system is found in the stomach.
So when the gut is affected, the body’s defense will also be at risk. Which can make dogs more prone to infections.
“What are the symptoms of a dog scared of fireworks?”
As time passes by, they may show more intense signs. Such as:
- House soiling.
- Hyper alertness.
- Loud vocalizations.
- Too much drooling.
Warning: Some might also become aggressive, which can cause them to snap or bite when approached.
You may also wonder: Why Is My Dog Suddenly Aggressive To Our Other Dog?
#7: They can start a noise aversion
In 2020, PDSA reports that 61% of vets saw an increase of pets with noise phobia. And this includes dogs who are scared of fireworks.
But it doesn’t end there.
Canines who have this phobia will also be afraid of other sudden loud noises. Like thunders, sirens, and gunshots.
“So what exactly is noise aversion?”
This is more than a simple fear. Because a dog can be traumatized after hearing loud fireworks.
And when not taken care of, it may get worse. Especially if they’re continuously exposed to frightening sounds.
“Are there breeds who are more prone to this?”
AKC says that this is mainly observed in herding dogs. Say Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. Because they’re often aware of their surroundings.
One study was also conducted about this. And found that older working dogs are more affected by loud noises.
This is because as canines age, they’ll also be more sensitive to such noises.
So if this phobia is triggered, Fidos will show symptoms like:
- Loss of appetite.
- Excessive barking.
- Being out of control.
- Attempting to escape.
- Destructive behaviors.
Shaking is also one sign that a dog is scared of fireworks. As well as being touchy and going to their humans for help and comfort.
“So what do I need to do if my dogs are scared of fireworks?”
Hold on for a bit as I’ll discuss them in a while.
Check out also: 9 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Barks When It Rains + 7 Tips
#8: They could trigger a past trauma
Does it seem like your dog has PTSD from fireworks?
If so, the sounds and bright lights must have triggered a bad experience. They might be reminded of a car accident, physical abuse, or gunfire.
This condition is more common in rescue dogs. And 5% of military canines are said to have this later in their lives.
So war flashbacks are also possible.
Dogs who have this will seem okay during normal days. Then certain situations which are similar to their trauma will trigger this.
And it’ll cause them to:
- Pant a lot.
- Act clingy.
- Be depressed.
- Be constantly alert.
- Suffer from insomnia.
- Always scan their surroundings.
You might also be interested in: Why is my dog so clingy all of a sudden?
#9: They worsen underlying health conditions
Fireworks come in different sounds and colors. And these are all possible due to various chemicals.
Wonder what they are made of?
In traditional explosives, you can find:
- Sulfur (10%).
- Charcoal (15%).
- Potassium nitrate (75%).
And in modern ones, there could be even more of this. Or other chemicals are used.
“So why are fireworks bad for dogs?”
No matter what they’re made up of, they can be harmful to everyone. Not only in canines.
Potassium nitrate causes shortness of breath when inhaled. As well as sulfur.
So imagine the danger if a bit of lighted firecrackers is ingested. And if dogs or humans have contact with them, they may suffer from skin or eye irritation.
Fidos who have asthma are also at risk. And those with other respiratory problems.
7 tips on how to keep your dog calm during fireworks
#1: Prepare for the noisy nights (with this simple checklist)
If some people are busy preparing a feast for New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July…
Dog parents are occupied as well.
But they’re doing something else for the safety of their furry buddies.
There could be a long list of the things you need to do so you might forget some.
But don’t worry, I got you. Here’s a checklist that you can use:
- Walk and exercise. Ensure your dog gets enough of these throughout the day.
- Take them out hours before dusk. Don’t leave them alone in the garden to relieve themselves. Some people may let out a few firecrackers and cause them to escape.
- Feed them a heavy meal. Do this before the fireworks displays start. As they can’t eat when they’re too nervous. Plus, they may get sleepy too.
- Refill their feeder with water. They may need more of this later on as they pant and pace out of fear. So keep an eye on it.
- Restock medications. If they need any, check if you still have stock at home.
- Close all the openings. Lock all the doors, windows, and dog/cat flaps where they can go through.
- Cover your windows and glass doors. Draw all the curtains or blinds. This to block the bright lights and dampen the noise outside.
- Keep their ‘safe place’ accessible. So they can go in and out on their own when they’re scared.
- Gather their fave toys around. You may need to distract them with these later.
- Prepare your playlist. Browse for soothing music or white noise audios that you can use to lessen the scary noises.
- Update their info. Do they have a microchip? It’s time to update the details in it. Same if they have a collar. This is to make sure if ever they flee somewhere. (But avoid this as much as possible).
Note: You may take note of the events in your phone calendar. Then set off an alarm a day before so you can get ready.
#2: Create a doggy safe place
When scared, it’s a dog instinct to hide.
So if your pooch runs away from you and looks for places where they can conceal themselves, don’t stop them.
It would be nice if you provide them a ‘safe place’ beforehand.
This could be a:
- Indoor kennel – enclosed and with a comfy interior.
- Crate – with a heavy blanket over it to create a den-like space.
- Separate room – with their bed inside and all openings and curtains shut.
What should you place in them?
- Soft blankets.
- Bowl with water.
- Their favorite toys.
- Your old shirt or laundry.
Leave them with these so they’ll be cozy while inside. And to keep them busy and entertained.
Note: Wait for them to settle down and come out by themselves.
#3: Put an anxiety wrap on them
Dogs who are afraid of fireworks may also calm by using a jacket or vest.
This gives off a feeling like someone is hugging them. And this pressure creates a ‘soothing effect’ for dogs in distress.
You can buy an anxiety wrap at the pet shop. Or, do it by yourself using a bandage or an old blanket.
Watch this simple tutorial:
#4: Stay indoors and keep them comfy
Hours before and during the fireworks display, it would be best for you and your pooch to stay inside.
This is to prevent any worst scenarios from happening. Like your dog taking off or hurting themselves from fleeing.
“But how can I calm my dog during fireworks?”
- Comfort them if they come. Reassure them and stay by their side. But don’t do it too much. Let them go if they want to hide or do something else.
- Reward calm behavior. Give them treats and praises if they settle down on their own.
- Play some background noise. This is to lessen the intensity of the loud ‘booms’ outside.
A study reveals that genres like reggae, soft rock, and classical work best to reduce dogs’ stress.
But like some people, they can also get bored with the same type of songs. And their limit is usually up to 5 to 7 days.
Note: Leave the TV or radio on in a volume that’s enough to mask the external noises.
#5: Give them medication
The stressful night is over.
But your Fido is still in the corner, trembling out of fear.
“So what can I give my dog to calm them down from fireworks?”
Before getting some drugs, consult with your vet first.
But to give you an idea. PetMD lists down some medication for dogs’ fireworks anxiety:
- Paroxetine (Paxil).
- Diazepam (Valium).
- Dexmedetomidine (Sileo).
“But how about sedatives?”
The second one above is one. Another commonly prescribed for dogs scared of fireworks is Benadryl.
However, experts say that it only has a mild effect.
Note: Remember, these work best along with proper correction of the behavior.
#6: Make them defeat their fear
This may sound impossible at first. But you’ll never know unless you try.
So how can you desensitize a dog to fireworks?
By counter conditioning.
Research shows that it’s the most effective out of all methods. And it has a 70% success rate.
So it could be the remedy for your dog who is afraid of fireworks.
- First, look for the audio of fireworks on Youtube.
- Play it to them – but start in the lowest audible volume.
- Give them treats while it’s on. If they seem fine, raise it slowly.
- Once they show any discomfort, lower the volume a bit. And distract them with toys or snacks.
- Do this for a few minutes every day until they’re not bothered by it.
This won’t be easy and quick. So do this consistently.
Note: If they seem to have severe trauma or noise phobia, you can ask a dog behaviorist or trainer to help you.
#7: Act like it’s no biggie
It’s known that dogs can sense our emotions.
But do you know that they could be affected by them as well?
Yup. So parents need to act calmly so as not to add up to their nerves.
Keep your tone neutral when talking to them. And avoid sounding too excited or panicky.
The former makes them think that there’s nothing to be scared about. While the latter may reinforce a needy behavior or validate fear.
People also ask:
Can firework anxiety cause death in dogs?
Firework anxiety alone can’t cause death in dogs. Dogs that are highly anxious might try to escape and this could lead indirectly to death. This is because while fleeing, they may seriously injure themselves. Or be in road accidents.
However, one study says that constant fear and stress can reduce their lifespan in the long run.
Researchers found that 15% of Fidos with anxiety need several days to fully recover from a stressful fireworks night.
And more than 3% of them have changes in behavior within weeks or months.
Some parents may overlook the signs that their pooch is giving as a simple fear. So, to prevent these from happening…
Watch out for these symptoms of fireworks anxiety in dogs:
Dogs who are afraid of noises can drool and breathe fast even without moving much.
#2: Being clingy
In times of fear, they might also seek safety in their humans. So they bark or paw at you – demanding attention and some cuddles.
#3: Intense vocalizations
This doesn’t only mean excessive barking. Because stressed dogs will express their emotions through whining, howling, or other unusual sounds.
Further reading: 17 must-read reasons which explain why your dog is so vocal
#4: Hiding or freezing
Once fireworks displays start, they’ll run and hide. But some can be frozen too and unresponsive due to shock.
#5: Destructive behaviors
This could be easily mistaken as a housetraining issue.
However, scared canines can also scratch, chew on things, and dig to cope with anxiety.
This is one of the first signs of a dog scared of fireworks – along with panting.
They’ll wander aimlessly or back and forth. And this indicates that something’s bothering them.
Don’t forget to also check out: Why does my dog suddenly pant (heavily)?
A dog who is suddenly restless usually means they’re in pain. And in this case, they could be in distress.
This is dangerous and it could happen all of a sudden.
It can be preceded by a warning growl. But if they’re startled, they may snap immediately.
So if your dog doesn’t show any aggressive behaviors before, it’s one clear sign that something’s off.
#9: House soiling
Peeing or defecating is unusual behavior. Especially if your pooch is potty trained.
So they might be so worked up. And couldn’t control themselves at the moment because they’re anxious.
BONUS: Compulsive behaviors
To cope with anxiety or stress, dogs will do a certain thing.
Like constant licking of blankets and furniture. As well as chasing their tail or sucking their legs.
Can dogs die of heart attack from fireworks?
Some news reports state there are dogs who died because they got a heart attack from fireworks. But there aren’t enough studies done that back this up.
In 2019, there’s news about the death of an 18-week-old Terrier named Molly.
And she was said to lose her life due to a heart attack after being frightened of fireworks.
Another incident happened the year before it, 2018. An 8-year old Moscow Watchdog, Winston, was found dead for the same reason.
But unlike Molly, he was diagnosed with a heart condition. And his body was found under the deck.
Like he was trying to squeeze himself into a small space – to escape from the noises.
In humans, there’s said to be a connection between the heart and the brain.
Studies show that emotional stress contributes to ⅓ of heart attacks and strokes. So indirectly, it can also put some tension on the heart.
So to summarize, this could be possible depending on several factors:
- Stress levels.
- Existing heart conditions.
This is why it’s important to be aware of their body language.
And notice the common indications of anxiety as early as possible to prevent it from getting worse.
Signs of a heart attack in dogs include:
This is why it’s important to be aware of their body language. And notice the common signs of heart attack based from vets such as:
Heart attacks happen all of a sudden. So it’ll be hard to detect them minutes before it occurs.
But usually, collapsing is the first symptom a dog may show once they feel unwell.
#2: Abnormal breathing
This is also accompanied by panting or gasping for breath.
#3: Rapid heart rate
Small dogs will have 140 beats per minute while it’s 100 beats for larger breeds.
They may have a higher temperature as well which is more than 103 F° (39.4 C°).
Dogs will also find it difficult to move so they could be frozen in one place.
And you’ll notice them having an unusual posture. Say, tilting their head or having a stiff body.