It’s almost time for the festivals, parades and fireworks displays that communities across the United States put on to celebrate Independence Day. Although most people greet the festivities gladly, the story isn’t the same for pets. Some are frightened by the loud bang of pyrotechnics, and others are unsettled by large groups of people gathered at backyard barbecues.
Pets may accidently eat holiday foods that aren’t healthy for them. More likely, well-meaning guests will try to give your pets treats that they shouldn’t have.
Pet may also pick up dangerous debris left behind from personal fireworks or holiday decorations. One dog I know accidently ate a discarded marijuana joint that was on the ground in a public park – not an unusual occurrence according to the vet.
Whether you’re planning your own Independence Day celebration or planning to take pets with you to visit friends, you need to take precautions to keep your pets safe. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers the following specific recommendations for pet owners in the days leading up to July 4, as well as during the celebration.
Editor’s Note:The PC360 editorial staff includes dog owners who graciously shared photos of their pets. We’d love to see photos of your pets too, along with tips on how you keep them safe during Independence Day parties and fireworks. Please tweet your photos and comments to @PC360_Markets or add them to the comment section following this slideshow.
Bailey (Contributed photo: S. Moynihan)
- Make sure your pets – cats and dogs alike – have identification tags with up-to-date information. If you have horses, you might consider marking a safety (breakaway) halter with your contact information and leaving it on your horse during this stressful time.
- If your pets aren’t already microchipped, talk with your veterinarian about microchipping. This simple procedure can greatly improve your chances of getting your pets back if they become lost.
- If your pets are microchipped, make sure your contact information in the microchip registry is up-to-date.
Taran and Bella (Contributed photo: R. Donlon)
- Take a current photo of all of your cats, dogs and horses – just in case.
- If your pet has historically been anxious on this holiday, or if you have reason to expect potentially harmful reactions, consider behavioral therapy to desensitize your pet and reduce the risk of problems. Some pets may need medication. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
- Make sure the environment is safe and secure. If your neighbors set off fireworks at an unexpected time, is your yard secure enough to keep your pet contained? Are pasture fences secure enough to keep horses or other livestock confined? Evaluate your options, choose the safest area for your animals, and make improvements if needed to make the area more secure.
Jasper (Contributed photo: J. Heft)
During July 4th celebrations
- Leave your pets at home when you go to parties, fireworks displays, parades and other gatherings. Loud fireworks, unfamiliar places and crowds can all be very frightening to pets, and there’s great risk of pets becoming spooked and running away.
- Consider putting your pets in a safe, escape-proof room or crate during parties and fireworks.
- Keep horses and livestock in safely fenced areas and as far from the excitement and noise as possible.
- If you’re hosting guests, ask them to help keep an eye on your pets to make sure they don’t escape. Placing notes on exit doors and gates can help both you and your guests remain vigilant.
- Keep your pets inside if you or your neighbors are setting off fireworks.
- Keep sparklers, glow sticks, fireworks, charcoal and kabob skewers away from curious pets.
Ollivander (Contributed photo: C. Pontoriero)
- Don’t let pets get near your barbecue grill while it is in use or still hot.
- Avoid the urge to feed your pets table scraps or other foods intended for people. Be especially careful to keep them away from these common foods that are actually toxic.
- Remember that too much sun and heat (and humidity!) can be dangerous to pets. Keep them inside when it’s extremely hot or humid; make sure they have access to shady spots and plenty of water when outdoors; don’t leave them outside for extended periods in hot weather; and know the signs that a pet may be overheating.
- Never leave your pet in your car when it’s warm outside. Vehicle interiors heat up much faster than the air around them, and even a short time in a locked car can be dangerous to pets.
- If you’re travelling out of town for the holiday, consider leaving your pets at home with a pet sitter or boarding them in a kennel. If you need to bring them with you, be sure you can keep them safe.
Nahlah (Contributed photo: M. Hillebrand)
Food safety for pets
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips on keeping pets safe when food and drink might be within reach:
- 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 or 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 pet 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.
Parker (Contributed photo: P. Harman)
- Don’t put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it. Although 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 tiki torch oil products out of reach. Ingestion 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 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.