tips for a pet-safe fourth of july from petplan

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tips for a pet-safe fourth of july from petplan
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Jul 03 2016

Summer time brings one of my favorite holidays - Independence Day! Who doesn’t love family barbecues followed by amazing fireworks displays? Well, maybe not our pets. Fireworks and parades may be awe inspiring for you, but they can be frightening and even downright dangerous for your four legged friend.

To help keep your dogs and cats safe this 4th of July, follow these 5 simple tips:

1. Avoid a sparkly snack - and expensive vet bill

I have no idea what is so enticing about a firecracker that would make a dog want to gobble it up, but every year I see a number of cases of firework ingestion in dogs. The severity of the illness depends on the ingredients of the specific firecracker that was eaten.

Why are fireworks so dangerous for dogs? Some fireworks contain nitrates and chlorates. These substances can cause gastrointestinal upset or worse. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder where abnormally high amounts of hemoglobin accumulate in the blood, resulting in difficulty getting oxygen to the body’s tissues. Symptoms of methemoglobinemia include shortness of breath and blueish gums. If your fireworks contained barium salts, you could see neurologic symptoms as well.

To help keep you pet safe:

  • Pick up spent fireworks, as these can cause the same problems due to residual chemicals left in the packaging.
  • Don’t leave matches unattended. Matches contain chlorates, too, and can cause the same problems as fireworks.

2. Don't burn out!

These are perhaps the most tragic of the consequences of fireworks that I have seen. Some dogs, especially Retrievers, just can’t help but chase thrown objects. To them, a thrown firecracker is just as much a toy as a tennis ball. If your dog goes after a lit firecracker, it can lead to fatal results, best avoided by leaving your dog at home during the display.

3. Keep calm and carry on

We’ve talked before about thunderstorm phobias and other noise phobias, including the phobia of fireworks. As you know, fireworks are very loud, and some dogs find the noise threatening. Every year around this time, I get calls from worried owners looking for a solution. Make sure your dog is in a place where he feels safe. Turning on a radio or TV to create white noise may help to distract your dog or mask the loud booms. Some dogs need a little bit of extra help coping with their phobia; if that's the case, ask your veterinarian if Valium or Xanax is right for your frightened friend.


4. Go for a home run

Dogs who are frightened are particularly apt to bolt quickly to try to find safety, so if you and your family go out to see a fireworks show, it’s best to leave your dog at home. If you must take your dog with you, keep a firm grip on his leash at all times.


5. Don't forget the chips!

I know I may sound like a broken record, but please, please make sure your pet has a microchip. More pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. The tiny chip, implanted easily in the back of your dog’s neck, will make a reunion much easier should he slip his lead at your Independence Day celebration, or any other time of the year!


Wishing you and your family a happy (and healthy!) 4th of July!