By Dr. Becker
Happy Independence Day!
Here's hoping you, your friends and family (including four-legged members) are enjoying a wonderful July 4th weekend.
What follows is a quick refresher to help you make this 4th of July a safe, sane holiday for your furry family members. A little planning and preparation will keep your pet secure and happy during the celebration.
6 Common July 4th Pet Hazards
1. Alcohol. Make sure to keep all adult beverages out of reach of your pet, and insist your guests do the same. Alcohol is poison to dogs and cats. Depending on how much is ingested, your pet can become very intoxicated, weak, depressed, and even comatose. Severe alcohol poisoning can result in death from respiratory failure.
2. Certain people foods. Even if your pet has a varied diet and a resilient digestive tract, it's best to keep party and barbequed foods out of reach. Feed your dog or cat her regular diet for the holiday, and be especially careful to keep potentially toxic people foods like chocolate, coffee, onions, grapes, raisins, and bread dough away from four-legged family members.
3. Human sunscreen and insect repellent. Make sure to use products designed specifically for your dog or cat, not products made for humans. If your pet ingests a sunscreen product, it can cause excessive thirst, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Insect repellents containing DEET can result in neurological problems in pets.
4. Matches and lighter fluid. Some matches contain a substance called chlorate, which can damage blood cells, impair respiration, and even 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.
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.
5. Costumes and glow jewelry. Don't give your pet access to glow jewelry, which if eaten can cause excessive drooling, GI irritation, and potentially, intestinal blockage. Also think twice about dressing up your pet for July 4th. Unless your dog (or even less likely, your cat) loves to play dress-up, don't force 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 even without a costume.
6. Citronella. Always keep citronella candles, oils, and insect coils out of reach of your dog or cat. Ingestion can cause stomach irritation, vomiting and secondary aspiration pneumonia and potentially, central nervous system symptoms in pets.
About Those Fireworks…
Professional fireworks displays can be stressful and frightening for pets, so if you're planning to take your pet along, I advise against it. Even normally calm dogs can get spooked and disoriented by the noise, lights, and crowds involved in a fireworks display. You certainly don't want to frighten your pet or put him in a situation where he might bolt or become aggressive due to fear.
Even pets left at home can be frightened of the loud noises that seem to go on forever the evening of July 4th. Your dog or cat has a much better sense of hearing than you do, so sudden loud sounds can be especially unsettling. And this goes double if your pet is older.
If your 4th of July celebration involves backyard fireworks, make sure your pet is safe indoors well ahead of time. Lit fireworks can result in severe burns and other injuries, and unused fireworks contain potentially toxic substances like potassium nitrate and arsenic.
Signs your pet is afraid of fireworks or other loud noises include shaking, vocalizing (barking or howling), excessive drooling, looking for a place to hide, or escape attempts.
How Not to Lose Your Pet on July 4th
• 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 be safe than sorry.
Every year on July 5th many dogs turn up miles from home -- afraid, disoriented, exhausted, and dehydrated. And animal shelters across the US get an influx of "July 4th dogs" who escaped during fireworks celebrations.
• 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.
Additional Safety Tips
It's a good idea to make sure your pet is well-exercised in the hours leading up to July 4th festivities. Since the temps are usually high in July, try a strenuous early morning hike with your dog or an afternoon swim. A tired pet will be calmer and less likely to engage in anxious or disruptive behaviors.
If your pet has a noise phobia, or has reacted in the past to fireworks, you'll want to take some extra precautions to preserve your anxious companion's health and safety, including remembering to feed and walk her well before the fireworks displays begin.