July Fourth is an essential summer celebration for most Americans and a time to enjoy fireworks displays and gathering with friends and family. Pets, however, may suffer anxiety, stress,or physical harm, or get lost because of large gatherings, loud fireworks, and summer heat. The Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team wants to help pet owners keep their pets safe this year, so here are five July Fourth safety hazards and tips to avoid them.
#1: Pet fear and anxiety from fireworks noise
Two-thirds of dogs have noise aversion, a treatable anxiety condition that causes extreme, fearful responses to loud noise. Fireworks are a top trigger, along with thunderstorms, construction noise, and more. If your pet is scared of fireworks, they are also more likely to develop fears of other noises or separation anxiety, and you should seek treatment from your veterinary team. Untreated noise phobias will worsen over time, but early intervention will help your pet stop panicking, feel better, and prevent the problem from progressing.
Noise aversion treatments for fireworks include keeping your pet indoors in a safe, quiet area, playing calming music, using calming species-specific pheromones, and administering prescription anti-anxiety or sedative medications before the event. If you know noises bother your pet or you’ve noticed the following signs during other noise events, ask your veterinary team to assess your pet and prescribe appropriate medications:
- Pacing, hiding, or clinginess
- Attempts to escape or run away
- Destructive behavior
- Trembling or cowering
#2: Pet injury from fireworks
Pets who get too close to fireworks risk injury from burns and explosions. Always keep pets indoors in their safe, quiet space if you or your neighbors plan to set off fireworks. Fireworks can be unpredictable, and your pet will be safer away from the launch site. If your pet gets injured, immediately head to the nearest veterinary emergency facility.
#3: Pet illness from holiday food and drink
What pet hasn’t been tempted by tasty food or drink left out by unsuspecting guests? Eating rich or unfamiliar foods can lead to stomach upset or pancreatitis, and eating inedible objects such as corn cobs can lead to life-threatening intestinal obstructions. Many party foods also can be toxic to pets, causing signs ranging from lethargy and vomiting to seizures and death. Tell your guests to avoid feeding your pets, promptly discard their trash, and pay close attention to dishes containing the following toxic foods:
- Grapes or raisins
- Macadamia nuts
#4: Pet heat stress and heatstroke
Pets cannot dissipate heat by sweating, which makes them more susceptible to heatstroke than humans. Pets exposed to high summer temperatures and sun for too long can experience an elevated body temperature, which damages the brain and vital organs and can lead to death. Pets at the highest risk for heatstroke include puppies, kittens, seniors, thick-coated breeds, overweight or obese pets, flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) pets, and pets with underlying medical conditions. Keep pets inside when temperatures rise or give them frequent breaks from the outdoors, and provide plenty of cool water and shade when outside.
#5: Lost pets
Pets left outdoors and unsecured can easily run away if noise from fireworks or crowds spooks them enough. More pets are lost during the July Fourth weekend than any other time of year, leading to overcrowded shelters and difficulty in finding their families. Ensure pets are kept inside during frightening events, regardless of how you think they may react—better safe than sorry.
If your pet does get away from you, you’ll want them to have proper identification so they can be returned. Ensure your pet has up-to-date ID tags on their collar, and consider microchipping pets who aren’t already. The microchip can be scanned by shelter staff, police, and veterinary facilities to locate your contact information and reunite you with your pet in the event they run away.
By safeguarding your pet from these hazards, you can ensure both of you enjoy the Independence Day celebrations. Contact us to schedule a visit or consultation if you think your pet may need medications to help them cope with noise anxiety, or with questions about July Fourth pet safety. If your pet suffers an injury or ingests a toxin during the holiday, contact a local veterinary emergency facility, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, or the Pet Poison Helpline.