The Fourth of July is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. Backyard cookouts, grilled food, red, white and blue clothing and decorations, the flying of American flags, concerts, parades, patriotic music, time spent celebrating with friends and family and of course sparklers, firecrackers and community fireworks displays all contribute to a fun filled day. What’s not to love? However, what is so enjoyable to us can be a nightmare for your pet.
Fireworks are terrifying to most dogs. The loud booms, the shaking ground, the flashes of light, the bangs and whistles, and the smell of smoke can reduce even the bravest dog to a state of panic. In response to a neighbor’s backyard fireworks display I once saw a yellow lab race repeatedly up and down a staircase, jump in and out of the bathtub, try to squeeze under a bed and end up hiding behind a chair whining and trembling, knocking down several people in the frenzied process. She was beyond consolation and with the next bang she was once again madly racing up and down the stairs trying to find a safe place to hide.
Normally well behaved dogs have been known to claw, chew and urinate on furniture, shred toys, pillows, blankets, clothing and household objects, leap through window screens, break restraints, jump fences and in a terrified panic run away. Some of these dogs have run blindly into roadways and many have been injured or killed. Animal control officers across the country report a 30 to 60 percent increase in lost dog reports from July 4th through the 6th. According to the American Humane Association, July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters with large numbers of runaway, lost or injured dogs brought in by strangers who find them. Unfortunately, shelter personnel are not always able to reunite these animals with their owners and some are eventually and sadly euthanized.
There are several solutions to help control this problem. Anti-anxiety and calming medications specifically for dogs are available by prescription through your veterinarian’s office. Call early as on July 3rd veterinary offices are inundated with pet owners who need these medications to get their pets through the next few days.
Secondly, although your dog would look great and attract a lot of positive attention wearing a red, white and blue bandanna or other patriotic accessory while accompanying you to a fireworks display or parade, you would be doing your pet a favor by leaving it at home and indoors in a quiet environment. Crowds, loud music, children yelling, babies crying, flags waving, firecrackers banging and the smell of tantalizing but dangerous foods for pets can cause sensory overload. Dogs have often broken away from the most diligent of owners and been lost in crowds. At the very least it will most likely be an unpleasant experience for your beloved pet.
If you decide to go ahead and bring your dog to one of these events anyway, be sure that it is wearing ID or has a microchip giving the dog a better chance of being returned to you if it should panic and bolt. The best choice for the dog is to leave it at home and there are some things you can do to lessen neighborhood celebration noise and make your dog less stressed while you are away. Start by closing all windows and drapes to muffle sound. Add white noise such as a television, a radio, a fan or an air conditioner to further block outside noises. Soft, relaxing music might help. Keep the dog confined to one safe room with its familiar bed or favorite blanket or toys. Leave it a snack and water. Make sure it has access to a corner or closet to hide in if it panics. If your dog is sometimes crated, put it in its crate with soft familiar blankets. Give it extra attention before you leave and when you return home.
If you are hosting a Fourth of July party at your home or having a family barbecue there are other safety issues to be aware of. The foods popularly cooked and served at barbecues can pose a serious danger to your dog. Onions, garlic, avocados, grapes, raisins and chocolate are all toxic substances for dogs. The ingestion of raw meat or fish could prove fatal. Many pet owners don’t know that alcoholic beverages are particularly dangerous and that the introduction of alcohol to a dogs system can cause extreme intoxication, life threatening seizures, coma and respiratory failure. Dogs are attracted to the scents of these foods and beverages and if they are left unattended will find a way to ingest them. Other items present at a celebration that a dog may ingest are matches, lighter fluid, fireworks, citronella or glow sticks. All of these contain substances that can seriously damage or be fatal to your pet.
Other products that are harmful to dogs are sunscreens and insect repellants made for humans. Ingredients in these products that are safe for humans are not necessarily safe and can be poisonous for animals. Specific sunscreen and insect repellant products for pets are available and safe for your dog. In particular the chemical ingredient DEET can cause n&&&&€;;;;logical problems in canines. If your dog has been in contact with any of these substances watch for poisoning symptoms of drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and excessive thirst. Seek veterinary help immediately.
One last concern is regarding pools, beaches and boats. Not all dogs can swim and some who can, do not swim well or for very long. Every summer thousands of dogs across the country drown, some in backyard pools and others when they fall off boats. If your 4th of July celebration is on a boat, at the beach or around a backyard pool, watch your dog as carefully as you would watch a child around water. Be sure there is a way for the dog to get out of the water easily if it tires and consider purchasing a canine life jacket for safe measure.
Be aware, vigilant, take some extra precautions to lessen stress, keep your pet safe, and enjoy your furry friend during this fun holiday time.