July Fourth means summer sun, cooking out, and fun fireworks displays, but this patriotic holiday can pose dangers for your pet. Our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital wants to help by providing do’s and don’ts to protect your pet during the celebration.

DO distinguish your pet

The busiest day of the year for pet shelters is July 5, because so many pets bolt when the fireworks start, and become lost. If your pet isn’t properly identified, whoever finds them won’t be able to contact you, and reunite you. Before the fireworks season starts, ensure your pet has proper identification. The most common identification techniques include:

  • Microchipping your pet — Placing a microchip implant under your pet’s skin is the best way to provide permanent identification that they can’t lose or have removed. This procedure, which must be performed by a veterinarian, is extremely simple, and can be performed at your pet’s next wellness visit.
  • Collaring your pet — Your pet should also always wear a collar and tags that have your current contact information.

DON’T indulge your pet

Party food is for people, and your pet shouldn’t partake. If they swallow a watermelon seed, a watermelon can grow in their stomach—only kidding, but a few foods that are problematic for pets include:

  • Fatty foods — Most people don’t bring healthy, nutritious dishes to a July Fourth celebration. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and seven-layer dip are much more common contributions, and can trigger a painful, potentially life-threatening condition called pancreatitis in pets. Ensure the fatty foods go toward expanding your guests’ waistlines, and not your pet’s.
  • Chicken wings — A July Fourth celebration wouldn’t be complete without a chicken wing or 12, but wings contain bones that can cause a choking hazard, injure your pet’s mouth, or cause a gastrointestinal obstruction if swallowed. These finger foods are best left to the brave men and women participating in the wing eating contest.
  • Alcohol — Alcoholic beverages are commonly consumed on July Fourth, but keep these libations away from your pet. Pets are highly sensitive to alcohol, and only a small amount can cause serious health issues, so ensure your pet doesn’t steal a sip from your guests’ red solo cups.

DO address your pet’s noise aversion

Many pets become fearful during a fireworks display. Their noise aversion is comparable to a person’s panic attack, and you must address their issues and prevent their suffering, because they are in serious distress. If you know your pet is affected, steps you can take include:

  • Keeping your pet inside — Ensure your pet remains inside during the July Fourth festivities, and provide them with a safe zone in a secure area where they can escape if they feel frightened or overwhelmed. 
  • Entertaining your pet — Distract your pet with a food puzzle toy, or by playing a game when the fireworks start.
  • Playing tunes for your pet — Muffle the noise by playing music or leaving the television playing for your pet.
  • Modifying your pet’s behavior — In some cases, behavior modification can help your pet cope with their noise aversion. This involves playing a recording featuring fireworks at a low level that doesn’t affect your pet, and gradually increasing the volume over several sessions to desensitize them to the noise. Offering positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, during the sessions will help your pet learn that the sound is not harmful. Behavior modification can take weeks or months to be effective, so you should start as soon as possible to help your pet.
  • Medicating your pet — Noise aversion can affect some pets so strongly that medication is the only way to prevent their reaction. The veterinary professionals at Colony Veterinary Hospital can help you decide if this option is right for your pet.

DON’T let your pet get too hot

Pets don’t sweat like humans, and their cooling methods aren’t extremely efficient, making them highly susceptible to heatstroke, which can be life-threatening. The high temperatures cause inflammation throughout their body, resulting in damage to multiple organ systems. Signs include excessive panting, drooling, diarrhea, and collapse. A pet’s normal temperature is between 101 to 102.5 degrees, and a pet whose temperature reaches 106 degrees is in serious danger. Ensure the frankfurters are the only hot dogs at your party, and follow these steps if your pet overheats:

  • Get your pet out of the sun — Immediately take your pet to a cool, shady, well-ventilated area. If possible, take them to an air conditioned space.
  • Cool your pet — Use lukewarm water or cool wet towels to cool your pet. Never use cold water or ice, which can cause your pet to become shocky.
  • Offer your pet a drink — If your pet is conscious, offer them lukewarm water to drink.
  • Get your pet to a veterinarian — Your pet will need veterinary attention. They may seem to recover after you have cooled them, but they must still be evaluated by a veterinarian to ensure no internal organs were damaged.

Follow these do’s and don’ts to ensure your July Fourth festivities aren’t spoiled by a veterinary emergency. If you would like to have your pet microchipped or discuss medications for them for the fireworks show, contact our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital to schedule an appointment.