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Protecting your local veterans, and your pets over the holiday weekend

Riley Connell

Fireworks are often a staple for Fourth of July celebrations, but they aren’t an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Many veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have a negative response to fireworks. It isn't a rare condition, but clinical psychologist Dr. Stephen Swender said it's more commonly found in veterans who have been in combat.


Sounds from any kind of firework can be triggering.


"The explosions, the sounds, even the sound of firecrackers can remind them of gunfire," Swender said. "Especially as more fireworks have been legalized, they've gotten more powerful."


To help prevent responses like anxiety, depression, and nightmares, Swender said people planning to ignite fireworks on their property should do their best to alert veterans beforehand.


“One thing that I've heard from veterans is that if they know the fireworks are going to happen, or they're actually there while they are being lit off, that it doesn't bother them as much. It's only when it's unexpected," he said. "So for example, only using them within an hour or two window as opposed to lighting them off all night and especially in the middle of the night, when people are sleeping.”


Veterans can also obtain signs to place on their residence, letting community members know that they're there, and encouraging them to be courteous of their firework use.


Swender said it's largely important to spread awareness about PTSD, especially when it comes to things like fireworks, which can last for days.


"Many veterans suffer silent silently from PTSD, and PTSD contributes to the high suicide rate among veterans," he said. "It's important to get the people that served our country the care that they deserve, so that they're not suffering from PTSD, and that they're having the quality of life they deserve."


Animals can also be sensitive to fireworks, particularly dogs.


When dogs are young, they can sometimes become traumatized by loud noises or bright lights, and that can cause them to have an anxious response to things like fireworks. Veterinarian Dr. Isaac Burrell said there are a number of things owners can do to keep their pets at ease.


“Thunder shirts or a tight fitting shirt can help. Finding a quiet, dark place in the house, like a bathroom or a basement can sometimes help as well, and spending time with them," he said. "You know, sitting close to the dog during those scary moments can help.”


When a dog becomes anxious, Burrell said there are several behaviors they start to exhibit.


"They can whine or cry, they can try to hide underneath the bed or in a corner, so hiding or avoidance," he said. "They can be destructive in some cases, digging at the floor or the doorknobs to try to escape, and they can, in rare cases, they can be aggressive towards other dogs or people."


Horses can also become skiddish during fireworks, and will sometimes try to run off. Burrell recommends obtaining an anxiety relievant from a veterinarian to help keep the response at bay.