Let freedom ring! Independence Day is a favorite time of celebration for many American families, but some of the festivities can spell trouble for our four-legged family members. As you prepare for fireworks, food, and fun, be sure to also prepare to keep your furry friends safe. Here are three Fourth of July hazards every pet owner should know, and what you can do to protect your pet:

#1: Pets get lost on the Fourth of July

According to Pet Amber Alert, animal control officials across the country report a 30% increase in lost pets each year between July 4 and July 6, and July 5 is one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters. Why? Because many pets are terrified of the booms and bangs of those spectacular fireworks shows, and their fight-or-flight response kicks in, causing them to attempt to flee. 

What you can do about it: 

  • Ensure your pet is microchipped and wearing a collar with ID tags — Your pet’s microchip should be registered with up-to-date contact information, and the ID tags should also be current. 
  • Desensitize your pet to the sounds — Well before July Fourth, play fireworks sounds in your home to begin getting your pet accustomed to them. Start with a low volume for only a few minutes at a time. While the sounds are playing, give your pet treats and praise. Slowly increase the volume every day until the sounds are similar to the real thing. Any time your pet seems scared or overwhelmed, stop the training for the day. 
  • Create a safe place for your pet — If possible, your pet’s safe place should be an interior room with doors, windows, and window treatments closed. Plug in a pheromone diffuser several days in advance, and place a few of your pet’s favorite things in there, like her crate, bedding, toys, and long-lasting treats. During the show, play calming music in the room. Don’t take your pet outside during the fireworks, and if you’re attending a gathering away from home, leave your pet at home in her safe place.
  • “Swaddle” your pet — Like infants, many pets are comforted by being “hugged” and securely wrapped. Compression products—like the Thundershirt—make a big difference for many pets who experience noise phobias and aversion.
  • Seek medical help — Some pets experience such severe anxiety that anti-anxiety medications may be warranted. If you think your pet could use some extra help over the Fourth of July holiday, call our office.

#2: Pets can experience severe gastrointestinal problems on the Fourth of July

Many Americans will celebrate the country’s independence by grilling some American classics, like barbecued chicken and corn-on-the-cob, in the backyard. But, many popular party foods and other festive items can be dangerous for our pets. Animal bones and corn cobs can cause obstructions and lacerations in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract, which can be deadly and may require surgery to remove or repair. Sweets, like chocolate and those made using the sugar substitute xylitol, are toxic to pets. And, fatty foods can cause life-threatening pancreatitis. Fireworks, charcoal, lighter fluid, tiki torch fluid, citronella candles, kabob skewers, and other common party items can be deadly if consumed by a pet.

What you can do about it: 

  • Keep pets away from the party food and festive items — During the backyard shenanigans, keep your pet inside, and ensure guests know to never give your pet human food or alcohol. 
  • Give your pet her own special treats — Just because she can’t partake in the people food doesn’t mean your pet can’t have special treats of her own. Freeze a Kong toy with peanut butter inside so she can go to town on that while you enjoy the red, white, and blue cupcakes. (Be sure the peanut butter you use doesn’t include xylitol!) 

#3: Pets can become overheated on the Fourth of July

Independence Day brings with it scorching temperatures, and pets, especially brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds like pugs and bulldogs, are susceptible to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

What you can do about it:

  • Don’t leave pets in the heat — Pets should always have access to fresh, cold water and shade. During the hottest times of the day, leave pets inside except for short bathroom breaks. And, never leave a pet inside a car on a warm day, even for just a few minutes. Walk your dog during the early morning or evening hours, and place your palm on the sidewalk for 10 seconds to determine if it’s too hot for your pup’s paw pads. If the sidewalk hurts your hand, it will hurt your dog’s paws.
  • Know the signs of heatstroke — Overheated pets may exhibit:
    • Excessive panting
    • Drooling
    • Vomiting
    • Restlessness
    • Agitation
    • Weakness
    • Difficulty walking
    • Sudden collapse

Heatstroke in pets in an emergency. If you think your pet is overheating, remove her from the heat right away, give her water, and place wet towels with cool—not ice cold—water on her. Then, bring her to our hospital or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately.

Happy birthday, America! If you have questions about keeping your pet safe this Fourth of July, call us.