The booms and bangs of the Fourth of July celebration often start a week before the official holiday. Every summer, we remind pet owners to be mindful of pet health and safety during this holiday.
By following the simple tips below, you can prevent your pet from becoming what many shelters call a “July 4th pet,” or a pet that becomes frightened, runs away, and ends up in a shelter.
- Keep your pets in a quiet room.
When fireworks start going off in your neighborhood, make sure your pets are safely confined in a quiet, escape-proof area. Drawing the blinds and turning on a radio can help muffle the noise. If you’re celebrating at home, don’t assume your pets will be okay outside just because you’re there. The sudden pop of a firecracker could send them running.
- Don’t console a frightened pet.
It sounds counterintuitive and while there is debate over the issue, consoling a frightened pet could reinforce the fearful behavior by essentially saying, “You have a reason to be afraid.” Instead, make sure your pet is in a safe area and go about your normal business. Your reaction to the fireworks will show your pet there’s nothing to fear. You can also distract your four-pawed friend with a toy and praise him or her for non-fearful behavior, like tail-wagging.
- Make sure your pet is properly identified.
Frightened pets are much stronger than we think, and an ordinarily calm dog can bolt and break free from a leash or jump from a car with little warning. If an unexpected bang causes your pet to run, a proper collar, tags and/or microchip will give you peace of mind.
- If you have a high-stress pet, consult your veterinarian.
If your pet usually reacts fearfully to loud sounds like thunder or garbage trucks, consult your veterinarian and ask how to reduce your pet’s anxiety.
- On the big night, leave your pets at home, inside.
Your city’s fireworks display might be at Fido’s favorite park, but he won’t like it much when the ground shakes from explosives. Before you leave, make sure your pets are safely inside an escape-proof area. Don’t underestimate the skills of a scared dog – there have been accounts of dogs pushing open doors and digging under fences to get away.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips:
- Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
- Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
- Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.
- Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pets severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals who have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. And keep in mind that foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes & raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals.
- Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.
- Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestions can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.
- Never use fireworks around pets! While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.