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Pets can be frightened of fireworks, storms, but help is available

Tom Davidson
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Boo, owned by Julie Phillabaum, of Perryopolis, is afraid of storms, fireworks and other loud noises.
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Two of Julie Phillabaum ‘s dogs are pictured. Phillabaum, of Perryopolis, is trying medication for Boo, pictured at right, to see if it helps during the fireworks and thunderstorm season.
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Boo, owned by Julie Phillabaum, of Perryopolis, is afraid of storms, fireworks and other loud noises.
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Four of Julie Phillabaum ‘s dogs, from left: Spot, Leah, Coal and Macy are pictured. Phillabaum, of Perryopolis, said Spot is scared of storms and fireworks each year.

The booms and sparkles of fireworks may delight the huddled masses of humanity who celebrate America’s Independence Day this week, but they can befuddle and terrify their four-legged counterparts.

“They just get spooked,” said Gwen Snyder, manager of Animal Protectors of Alle­gheny Valley, a New Kensington-based animal shelter.

This is a time when Animal Protectors and other shelters see an uptick in dogs who run away from home because of the noises and end up lost, Snyder said.

“Dogs can make a run for it if they’re scared,” she said.

Because of that, she advises people to refrain from bringing their pets along to watch fireworks displays.

If animals are frightened by backyard booms, Snyder said it’s best to help them find a quiet place inside where they can take refuge.

Music and television also can be used to distract from the festivities outside.

Fireworks aren’t the only seasonal problem, as it’s also peak thunderstorm season, according to Dr. Debra W. Petraccaro of Greensburg Veterinary Associates in Hempfield.

“It’s a big deal,” Petraccaro said, and she treats many animals who have extreme reactions to the noise that can be treated with medicine.

“Some animals have a severe reaction,” Petraccaro said. “Some try to dig through the wall to find a place to hide. They do anything they can to get away from it.”

For those animals, most of which are dogs, medication can be an answer, and there’s a variety of antidepressants and tranquilizers that can be effective, Petraccaro said.

The key to using medication is to administer it before the noise, meaning before the thunderstorm or fireworks display starts, she said.

If the reaction isn’t severe enough to warrant medication, sometimes all it takes is the gentle voice and comfort of their owners, Petraccaro said.

Dog owner Julie Phillabaum of Perryopolis in Fayette County is one of Petraccaro’s clients. She has five dogs, all of them rescues.

Three of them “don’t mind anything,” but Spot, a 13-year-old border collie, gets frightened, and their newest dog, Boo, a Lab mix, has a severe reaction to noises.

She shakes uncontrollably and pants.

“It’s really upsetting because there’s nothing you can do,” Phillabaum said.

They visited the veterinarian and are going to try a prescription to see if it will help.

“This will be our first year with Boo and fireworks,” Phillabaum said.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also offers tips on its website for pet owners during the Fourth of July.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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