Pet Tips for the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is one of the most dreaded holidays, striking fear and terror into little hearts everywhere… and sometimes sending the bravest of them all scurrying to hide under the bed or into a closet. We are, of course, talking about how this holiday affects your pets. Though you (and especially your kids) love the festivity of fireworks, their deafening noises can scare the daylights out of your dog or cat.

In addition, amidst all of the holiday hubbub, it can be very easy to lose track of your pet and before you even realize it, your (frantic or terrified) dog or cat may have gone missing. In fact, the Humane Society of the United States reports that animal shelters across the country are used to receiving “July 4th Dogs:” dogs who run off during fireworks celebrations and are rescued by animal control officers or helpful citizens who take them to the safety of a local shelter.

We’ve compiled this list of precautions to protect your pet this holiday weekend, so everyone in your family can enjoy a fun and safe Fourth of July!

  • Don’t take your pet along with you to watch your city’s fireworks display. If you’re considering this idea, consider that to your pet, it will seem like they are being tortured, for no understandable reason. Pets LOVE routine, and in addition to routine, a nice CALM routine. To take them so far out of their comfort zone as to a city fireworks celebration will  be nothing but pure terrifying torture to your pet.  In some municipalities, pets aren’t even allowed. Remember how sensitive an animal’s hearing is, as compared to a human’s and be considerate of your pet’s comfort.
  • Keep your pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area while you party. Even neighborhood firecrackers, loud music, and block party celebrations can scare pets. In this case, it’s best to keep your pet confined to a quiet room in the house that he feels comfortable in, with his bed, a lot of chew toys, and some comforting white noise left on, like the TV or music, to mask foreign noises, and to keep him company while you’re out. Remember too that some animals can become destructive when frightened, involuntarily eliminating or defecating in fear, or displacing their anxiety by chewing, scratching, digging, and so on, so be sure that you’ve removed any items in the room you leave your pet in that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if he chewed it.
  • If your pet behaves nervously by pacing, whining or crying, distract her by playing with her or doing something she enjoys. Don’t pay extra-special attention to her by petting, holding, cooing at or otherwise babying her. This may actually reinforce her nervousness or fright.
  • Ensure your pet is safely confined in a spot they will feel comfortable in. Some pets can become so upset or frantic by loud noises that they simply want to bolt. Dogs can be very ingenious, and can find very clever ways to get out of rooms, houses, or fenced yards, only to become lost or worse. One such tragic story reported by the Humane Society recounted what happened when a 2 year old dog, left at home alone while her family was out for only four hours to celebrate the Fourth of July, escaped from the house and fenced backyard. The family returned home to feces on the living room floor, an open sliding glass door, and a hole under their fence. Only days later did they find their dog, dead, on the side of a road where she was often walked. “From what we can tell, when she heard the fireworks she freaked out and pooped on the floor inside—for the first time ever—then she opened the sliding glass door with her paw, and dug a hole outside our fence…. She went searching for us.”
  • If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises like thunder, and there is no safe/quiet haven in your house, consult with your veterinarian before July 4th for alternative ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety he or she will experience during fireworks displays.
  • Never leave your pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard. In their fear by the unusual loud noises and lights of fireworks, pets who normally wouldn’t leave the yard may escape and become lost. See the tragic story recounted above.
  • Don’t let your pet help you with the Bar-B-Q! This is a no-brainer, but keep your pet away from grills, charcoal and lighter fluid. Sunscreen, insect repellent and citronella candles can also hurt your pet.
  • Even though you’re indulging, resist the urge to indulge your pet! Your pet will most likely happily eat up anything you give him, but remember that onions, salt, avocados and chocolate can all be fatally toxic to dogs and cats. In all of the festivities and crazy activity, it can be hard to keep track of what your pet has eaten, or what guests have “spoiled” him with, and too much “people food” can make your pet very sick.
  • If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic substance, or is displaying signs of overindulgence: Contact your vet or the 24-hour Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
  • Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running loose without any identification should be taken to the local animal shelter, where they will have the best chance of being reunited with their owners.