The Fourth of July is one of the most dangerous times of the year for pets, having the highest number of missing pet reports than any other.
The main cause of concern is fireworks, which can frighten and disorient dogs and cats causing them to panic and run off. It's also a time when friends and family get together for fun things like cooking out and celebrating. To help keep your pets safe this year, we’d like to give you a few tips for your July 4th celebrations!
1. Keep your pets indoors. Even if your dogs are used to going places with you there are very few who are comfortable with fireworks. If you have a fenced backyard, it is best not to let pets out unsupervised if there is a chance of them jumping the fence or injuring themselves if frightened. Outdoor cats should be brought inside and put somewhere comfortable. If you cannot bring them in the house, consider housing them in the garage for the night.
2. Create a safe haven for your pets. An interior room with no windows is ideal, since it will help to muffle the sound of fireworks and prevent your pets from injuring themselves trying to escape. Make sure there are no areas your pet can squeeze into if frightened. If your dog is crate trained consider leaving them in their crate while fireworks are going on.
3. Make sure your pets have on a collar and tags with a current phone number so you can be contacted if they get lost. We recommend having your pets microchipped, since collars and tags can fall off. If your pet is already microchipped make sure that you have all of your information with the microchip company up to date. You can call our clinic any time if you have questions or think you would like to have your pet microchipped.
4. Create distractions. If your pet has severe anxiety with fireworks you may opt to stay in and make sure they stay safe. Play with your pets calmly, and don’t feed into any anxiety they experience. If you have plans to go out put peanut butter or treats inside an indestructible bone, or purchase a puzzle for your dog to figure out while the fireworks are going on. You can also leave the television or radio playing to help distract from the sound of fireworks.
5. Consider a Thundershirt. A Thundershirt is a security shirt that applies gentle pressure to help soothe your dog. It was originally designed to help dogs with thunderstorm anxiety, but works very well for fireworks too. Your dog must be trained to wear it in order for it to work effectively. They do make thundershirts for cats, but we have not had any real experience with them. We've tried one on KP... she just fell over and wouldn't move. I didn't get the feeling it was because it made her super calm.
6. Sometimes anxiety is severe enough that you may consider using calming treats or medications. There is no way that we can make a blanket statement that all calming treats are safe or effective, but if you would like to know about a specific product you can call and speak with one of our doctors anytime. You can take a picture or bring the product to the clinic so that the doctors can look over the listed ingredients. There are also some medications that may be appropriate for your pets if they get severely anxious or are at risk for harming themselves. This should be discussed with one of our doctors, taking into account your pet's medical history.
7. If you have a cookout make sure your animals are comfortable with people and are unable to slip outside if someone leaves a door open by mistake. Make sure your guests know not to feed pets table scraps. Some human food is harmless, but even harmless food in large amounts can be dangerous. Things like chocolate, grapes, and alcohol can be very dangerous, even if consumed in small amounts. Even if your pet is fine eating a little cheese or burger, a little food from each person adds up.
8. Keep dangerous items out of reach. There an abundance of things that go along with celebrating the Fourth that can be dangerous. Citronella candles, tiki torches (and the oil), matches, lighter fluid, glow jewelry, insect repellent and sunscreen are just a few of these. These all seem like things that pets wouldn't eat, but you’d be surprised. Even after seeing all the trouble pets can get into, we're still surprised on a regular basis here at Bon Air Animal Hospital.
We hope these tips come in handy, and that you all have a safe and happy Fourth of July!