Star Spangled Safety: Pets and the Fourth of July
While we may love the fun and festivities of the Fourth of July, the day tends to be a pet’s worst nightmare. Sure, there are delicious smells wafting over from the grill, but these exciting scents aren’t exactly coming from dog-friendly food. And there are plenty of friends and family to play fetch with, but what if one of them leaves the gate open or accidentally steps on a tail? And then, of course, there’s the deluge of fireworks, which are fabulous for us, but feel more like an aerial assault to our pets. You know how loud fireworks are, and I’m sure you know how well your puppy’s ears work.
Add in crowds and hot weather (especially if you’re planning on taking your dog out for the day), and the Fourth of July quickly becomes a pet safety nightmare. But never fear! There is plenty you can do to keep your four-legged friend safe and happy on Independence Day!
Pets and the Fourth of July – A Primer
First, let it be said that the safest place for your pet on the 4th is at home and inside. This is true for both dogs and cats (including cats that are normally “outside kitties”). Sure, if you’re hosting a party, the homefront may be a bit chaotic, but you know how to deal with that (and we’ll give you some reminders a bit further on).
Here are a few reasons to keep your pets at home for the holiday:
Parades – Hundreds of rushing strangers are not looking out for your dog. Swerving bicycles, unsettled horses, go-carts, motorized floats, and even stilt-walkers, may not be able to avoid hitting your pet. Besides, to most dogs, a parade is just lots of loud, scary noise and strange ankles. Add in high temperatures, little or no shade, not enough drinking water, overly friendly children, and mountains of unsafe food, and you’ve compounded the doggie dangers to unreasonable levels.
Parties – Parties, and barbeques in particular, can be pet fiascos. Fire-pits, hot grills, spilled coals, lighter fluid, and sharp or hot implements present obvious dangers. Less obvious, but just as dangerous, are wads of food-coated aluminum foil, grease-soaked gravel, and open containers of alcohol (which over-excited pets may drink with disastrous results). Other guests may give your pet deadly treats containing chocolate, raisins, Xylitol, or chicken skin and bones. While your good dog may be a regular party animal, the Fourth of July should be an exception to his or her regular social calendar.
Fireworks – If a parade is more pain than pleasure, and a barbeque has potential for mayhem, fireworks are likely the bane of your pet’s existence on the 4th. Animals have incredibly sensitive hearing, meaning that the loud bangs and booms (not to mention the screeching high pitches) are not only terrifying, but the high decibel levels may damage your pet’s sensitive inner ears. Loud booms and retina-searing lights, combined with confusion, darkness, and distracted owners, are a recipe for panic and disaster.
Home Sweet (and Safe) Home
As we mentioned above, home is the best place for your pets on the Fourth of July, and ideally both cats and dogs should be kept indoors from early afternoon until the following morning. This is due, in part, to the fact that the Fourth of July is the number one day of the year for pets to go missing. Whether it’s because they’ve been spooked and run off to hide, or escape through left-open gates, the mayhem of the day tends to send pets packing, if given the chance.
Help to minimize the stress of the day by considering the following:
- Create a safe haven for your pet in an interior room, away from the action, complete with a bed, food and plenty of water, and some toys
- Turn on a TV, the radio, fans, or other white noise to reduce the sounds of the day
- If possible, have a family member stay with your pet, especially during the fireworks
- Consider using calming sprays that mimic natural hormones such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs to keep them chillaxed
- If your pet is especially sensitive to the holiday, talk to us about possibly using prescription medications to keep him or her calm
Whether you decide to keep your pet at home, or take him or her along for the day, please be absolutely certain that his or her ID tags are current and securely attached to the collar. You should also be sure that your pet’s microchip information is current, as well.
If, despite your best efforts, a pet is lost during the festivities, immediately begin the usual lost-pet protocols, such as posting flyers and internet notices, calling veterinarians, and personally visiting shelters. And, of course, if your pet is injured, can’t calm down after the fireworks stop, or shows signs of heat stroke, seek emergency veterinary attention immediately.
With a little common sense and advance planning, everyone will have a happier, pet-safe Fourth of July that will be memorable for all the right reasons!
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