The 4th of July is probably the least-liked day of dogs in the United States, and it is the time of year when the highest number of pets go missing. While you are barbecuing and watching fireworks, your dog is likely in panic mode, at least internally. Here are some tips to help keep your critters safe and happy this weekend.
- Keep your pets inside as much as possible. While you might feel your dog would enjoy going to the park and socializing, save it for another day. The tiniest firecracker could be enough to jerk the leash right out of your hand and send him running.
- Make sure your pets have tagged collars and are microchipped. If they do get spooked and run away, you’ll want to make sure they are easily found and returned to you. Cats should only ever have breakaway collars – otherwise they could choke to death if their collars get caught on something like a branch or a fence. Dogs can also get caught while running from fireworks – another reason to keep them inside.
- Never use fireworks around your pets. This one is fairly obvious and should need no pointing out, but some people forget how sensitive animals’ hearing is. High-pitched whizzing and screaming fireworks can damage their ears. Some of us might enjoy the quickly moving colors and loud sounds, but these are terrifying to animals. Also, it is not uncommon for fireworks to go in unintended directions – one of which may be right at your dog.
- Secure all doors and windows. While running outside to escape fireworks seems like a bad idea, a panicking animal will not reason this out. Screens are easily smashed through and doors can be blasted open. Keep windows low enough that your animal could not escape through them, with blinds closed, and keep doors latched or locked.
- Do not leave your animals in a car unattended. Even in the shade with windows cracked, unless the AC is blasting, internal car temperatures can skyrocket to 150° F (54° C) in minutes. Dogs can die from heatstroke in less than an hour.
- Keep glowsticks and glow jewelry out of pets’ reach. Most of us will think, “My dog knows better!” But glowsticks are made of plastic – so are many chew toys. And many cats love chewing on whatever plastic they can sink their teeth into (because many plastics contain fish oil). The chemicals inside are toxic if ingested. Don’t leave glowsticks on tables or anywhere else your pet can reach.
- Keep matches, lighters, charcoal fluid, propane, etc. away from your dog. The chemicals used can be dangerous if consumed.
- Do not use sunscreen or insect repellant on animals unless it is specifically made for them. You might be saving your pet from harmful rays and pesky mosquitoes, but dogs and cats are always licking or chewing some part of their body, and devouring the chemicals in these products can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and lethargy. DEET repellants can cause neurological problems.
- Keep alcohol (and any other goodies…) out of reach. Today can be chaotic, so it can be easy to forget where you set your drink down. Now, everyone has known at least one dog in their lives that was a total beer hound, but alcohol is dangerous for pets and can cause bloat, so put it somewhere safe.
- Monitor what your dog is eating. At cookouts, there are plenty of food hazards. Raw onions are poisonous, and it is important that dogs never be fed chicken bones or any other meat with bones that can splinter – they can tear up an animal’s digestive tract. Make sure your dog isn’t getting too many handouts – healthy table scraps are an important part of many dogs’ diets (they can eat pretty much the same things we eat, unless they have sensitive stomachs), but today, everybody might be tossing something their way. Don’t let them eat to excess or have too much barbecue sauce – otherwise you might have a lot of little messes to clean up.
- If your dog is ok with all the noise and is joining in the celebrations today, make sure they have plenty of shade, cool water, and a comfy blanket.
- Keep an eye on dogs near water. Most are fair swimmers, but many, such as some bully breeds, are not known for their doggie paddle skills. Get them a life jacket, and don’t let them near pools or open water unattended. Remember to bathe them after swimming to protect their skin and fur from chlorination and parasites.
- Don’t overexert your dog. Tire them out, but not to the point of exhaustion. Some dogs just don’t know when to quit, and some will play or run until they drop. Give them breaks to get water and just pant – more so when it is humid (less evaporation – takes longer to cool down). Dog that have been bred to have respiratory problems (like bulldogs, pugs and Pekingeses) need longer recovery time. Even dogs playing fetch in the water can succumb to heatstroke. Have fun, just don’t overdo it.
- Distraction is key. Ok, so your pets are safely inside, but they are still panicking about the fireworks. Give them a (frozen) Kong filled with peanut butter or treats, or a frozen block of chicken or beef broth (with or without meat and veggies) to keep them occupied (an ice cube of tuna water for cats). If they won’t tear the door to shreds because of separation anxiety, keep them enclosed in a room – cozy, non-creepy basements might be best. Turn on the AC, fans and tv – anything to drown out the noise. If you can, take your dog on a LONG walk before there is too much commotion outside, play an intense game of fetch or tug-of-war, and then give him a filling meal – this will help knock him out for a few hours. If they feel safe sleeping in a tub or closet, just let them.
- As a last resort, talk to your vet about doggie Xanax. If your dog has severe anxiety about the holiday (many dogs, especially those born around this time of year, do), discuss anti-anxiety medication with your veterinarian. Never use your own prescription – the dosages for humans are typically much higher, and there can be ingredients in some human medications that are not safe for dogs. An alternative to medication is the ThunderShirt, which many dog owners say works wonders on their anxious pups.
Be careful and have fun! ?