By Dr. Becker
While many Americans look forward to the Fourth of July as a fun-filled day of barbecues, parties and fireworks, the day can be exceedingly stressful for pets. Loud noises, hot weather and, perhaps, unfamiliar houseguests may send your pet into hiding or, worse, cause him to flee from your home or backyard.
More pets run away from home or get lost on the Fourth of July than any other day, making July 5 the busiest day of the year for animal shelters, according to the American Humane Association (AHA). They explain:1
"July 5 is the busiest day of the year at animal shelters, as companion animals that fled in fright the night before are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted.
Anxious families often find themselves searching the streets and shelters looking for a treasured family member whose fear drove him to jump a high fence or break his leash or chain.
If your pet is upset by thunder, a door slamming or other loud noises, Fourth of July fireworks will be utterly terrifying."
Fireworks Safety Tips for Pets
The biggest threat to pets on the Fourth of July is fireworks. If you'll be attending a fireworks show in your city, leave your dog at home, indoors, and, preferably, safely nestled in his crate with some blankets, safe toys and treats to help him feel safe. Alternatively, someone can stay home with your pet for added support.
Even small fireworks displays or shooting off firecrackers in your backyard can be terrifying for pets. In addition, your pet's fur is highly flammable, so you don't want him anywhere near an area with open flames and fireworks.
If you take your pet with you to a fireworks event and he panics, you should leave. Do not leave your dog in a vehicle; in addition to the emotional stress, high temperatures in the vehicle may lead to heatstroke or death, even if you crack the windows.
If you can hear fireworks even from inside your home, you can prepare your pet ahead of time by diffusing calming essential oils, administering flower essences or calming herbs (l-theanine, rhodiola, 5-HTP, chamomile, holy basil, GABA and ashwagandha) or trying a calming TTouch massage or body wrap (where the concept of the "thunder shirt" came from).
Simply turning on a TV or some music can also help to muffle the sounds of fireworks, and taking your dog out earlier in the day is highly recommended to get in some active playtime. A tired dog will tend to be calmer, or at least less disruptive or destructive, once the fireworks begin.
In addition, be sure to pick up any unused or used fireworks from your backyard before letting your dog out the next morning. They may contain toxins like arsenic and potassium nitrate that can make your pet sick if consumed.
Extra Precautions in Case Your Pet Escapes
The Fourth of July is one day when you want to be sure your pet is wearing an up-to-date ID tag and a well-fitting collar at all times. You can also snap a quick photo of your dog, just in case he escapes. You can find additional precautions in Petfinder's infographic, below:2
5 More Ways to Keep Pets Safe on the Fourth of July
Fireworks are only one hazard to pets on the Fourth. Additional measures to keep pets safe include:3
- Keep alcoholic beverages out of reach: your pet can be poisoned by alcohol, leading to intoxication, weakness, coma, respiratory failure and death.
- Avoid using human sunscreens and insect repellants on your pets: they may contain chemicals, such as DEET, that can cause gastrointestinal upset and neurological problems in your pet.
- Keep glow sticks and jewelry away from pets: dogs or cats may be tempted to chew on these items, and while the luminescent substance isn't highly toxic, it can lead to gastrointestinal upset. The plastic can also lead to intestinal blockage.
- Be careful with matches, lighter fluid, charcoal, citronella candles, sparklers, tiki torch oil and insect coils: these items, which are popular at backyard parties, can cause health problems ranging from difficulty breathing and kidney disease to central nervous system depression and aspiration pneumonia if consumed or inhaled.
- Feed your pet as usual: even though it may be a day of celebration, feed your pet according to his regular schedule and diet (ideally a fresh, balanced, species-appropriate diet). For a special treat, prepare a batch of these green chicken crumpets ahead of time.
A final note of precaution if you're planning to grill outdoors — keep your pet safely away from the grill at all times. Not only is there the potential for burns, but also consuming the contents of the grill grease trap is a common cause of summertime pancreatitis in dogs.
Also be sure to keep potentially dangerous picnic items, like corncobs, skewers and cooked bones, away from pets.
Above all else, remember that sitting outside and hearing fireworks boom, pop and whizz through the sky might sound like fun to you but is more of a nightmare for most pets. Give your pet some extra attention on the Fourth, especially once the fireworks start, so he'll feel safe and secure.