By Dr. Becker
I'm sure many of you are planning to celebrate the upcoming Fourth of July weekend with family and friends at parties, picnics, barbeques, and perhaps taking in a fireworks display. But while holiday festivities are typically non-stop fun for human family members, often the same can't be said for the four-legged members of the household.
Sadly, July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters simply because so many pets panic at the sound of firecrackers, escape through an open door or window, and disappear into the night. Many turn up miles from home -- frightened, disoriented, dehydrated, and sometimes injured. Others are lost forever.
That's why each year around this time I like to remind Healthy Pets readers to consider the needs of furry family members as you plan your July 4th activities. There are a number of hazards you'll want avoid or at least be aware of to insure the safety and health of your pet over the holiday weekend.
Top 10 July 4th Dos and Don'ts for Pet Owners
- DO ID your pet. In the event your pet is lost during all the confusion and commotion of holiday get-togethers, make sure he or she can be identified with an up-to-date ID collar or tag, permanent tattoo, or microchip. Even if you feel there's no way in the world your dog or cat can escape, it's better to expect the worst and hope for the best.
- DON'T apply human sunscreen or insect repellent to your pet. Make sure to use products designed specifically for your dog or cat, or that are vet-approved, all-natural human sunscreens. If your pet happens to ingest a sunscreen product, it can cause excessive thirst, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Insect repellents containing DEET can cause neurological problems in pets.
- DO keep party and barbeque foods out of reach of your pet. Feed your dog or cat his regular diet for the holiday, and be especially careful to secure potentially toxic people foods like chocolate, coffee, onions, grapes, raisins and bread dough. Consuming the contents of the grill grease trap is a common cause of summertime pancreatitis in dogs, so make sure to keep Fido away from the grill, in general.
- DON'T give your pet access to glow jewelry. If eaten, it can cause excessive drooling, GI irritation, and potentially, intestinal blockage.
- DO keep alcoholic drinks out of reach of your pet, and insist your guests do the same. Beer, wine and liquor can poison your dog or cat. Depending on how much is ingested, your pet can become very intoxicated, weak, depressed, and can even slip into a coma. Severe alcohol poisoning can result in death from respiratory failure.
- DON'T force your pet into a costume for July 4th. Unless your dog (or even less likely, your cat) loves to play dress-up, don't push the issue. Make sure anything you dress your pet in is comfortably loose and doesn't constrict movement in any way. Also remember, it's July and your pet can easily get overheated.
- DO keep citronella candles, oils, and insect coils out of reach of your pet. Ingestion can cause stomach irritation and potentially, central nervous system symptoms. Inhaling the oil can cause breathing difficulties and aspiration pneumonia in pets.
- DON'T take your dog or cat around backyard or neighborhood fireworks displays. And make sure to store personal fireworks where your pet can't get them. Pets have been known to swallow unexploded firecrackers, and it's also important to remember that an animal's fur coat is highly flammable.
- DO keep matches and lighter fluid out of reach. Some matches contain chlorate, which can damage blood cells, impair respiration, and cause kidney disease. Lighter fluid can irritate your pet's skin, and if ingested can cause GI upset and central nervous system depression. Inhaling lighter fluid can result in breathing difficulties and aspiration pneumonia.
- DON'T allow your pet outside, especially after dark. If she'll be within range of the sights and sounds of fireworks, try to secure her in a room without windows. Create a safe haven with bedding, a toy or two, and a few treats. Turn on a TV, radio or other music to help muffle the noise from outside. Leave someone at home with your pet if possible, but whatever you do, don't leave her outside alone. If she becomes frightened, even a fenced yard may not keep her safe. Dogs have been injured while making panicked attempts to escape their yard, and those that succeed can run away, be hit by a car, or stolen by a stranger.
If your pet has sound or noise phobias, the time to make a stress-reduction plan for your pet is before the event occurs, so talk to your vet about natural stress solutions you can institute before the fireworks begin, including diffusing calming essential oils, administering flower essences or calming herbs, a calming TTouch massage or body wrap (where the concept of the "thunder shirt" came from), and creating a "safe spot" in your home.With a little advance planning, you can prevent problems for your pet over the July 4th holiday. It will be much easier for you and your family to relax and enjoy the celebrations if you're not worrying about your pet's health and safety.