July Fourth festivities bring together friends, family, food, and fireworks, but they pose several dangers for your pet. Our Wales Animal Clinic team wants you to enjoy your Independence Day celebration, so we provide tips to protect your four-legged friend before you decorate in red, white, and blue, and fire up the grill. 

#1: Properly identify your pet

According to the American Humane Association, July 5 is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters, because they are inundated with pets who panic during fireworks displays and get lost in their attempt to flee the noise. When a lost pet is found and taken to a veterinary practice or an animal shelter, they will be checked for a microchip so they can be reconnected with their family. Microchipped pets are much more likely to return safely home. Recommendations to ensure your pet is properly identified include:

  • Microchip your pet — Microchipping is an easy procedure that permanently identifies your pet by providing an easy method for determining their owner should they go missing. You must keep your contact information in the microchip registry updated, so anyone who finds your pet can easily locate you.
  • Collar and tag your pet — Your pet should also always wear a collar and identification tags with your current contact information. 

#2: Keep your pet indoors

The fireworks and loud crowds may overwhelm your pet, and you should keep them indoors so they don’t bolt in fear during your July Fourth party. Recommendations include:

  • Create a pet safe zone — Designate an interior room in your home as your pet’s escape from the revelry. Ensure they have all the necessary comforts and resources, and make the area off-limits to your guests. If your pet is prone to anxiety, consider confining them to their room during the festivities. Check on your pet frequently to ensure they aren’t too stressed, and use a food puzzle toy or music to distract them from upsetting noises. 
  • Post reminders — During a party, you can easily get distracted and forget to watch for your pet. Post signs on your doors to remind yourself and your guests to watch your pet closely and to close doors and gates to prevent them from sneaking out when people are entering and leaving the house. 

#3: Don’t let your pet partake in party food

Most July Fourth celebration dishes are high in fat, and fatty foods can trigger pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition, in pets. In addition, many common human foods and drinks are toxic to pets, including:

  • Alcohol — Many people enjoy an alcoholic beverage on July Fourth. Pets are especially susceptible to alcohol, and only a small amount can have serious consequences. 
  • Onions — Onions, garlic, and other vegetables in the Allium family add a little zing to your food, but they cause damage to a pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia. 
  • Grapes — Grapes and raisins may seem like a healthy option on Independence Day, but these snacks can cause severe kidney damage in pets.
  • Chocolate — While many people enjoy celebrating with chocolate, the sweet treat contains caffeine and theobromine which are toxic to pets, and can lead to hyperactivity, increased respiration and heart rate and, in severe cases, seizures. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous for your four-legged friend.

#4: Ensure your pet doesn’t overheat

The July Fourth heat allows for tank tops, shorts, and children running through sprinklers, but can be dangerous for your pet. Humans sweat to regulate their body temperature, but pets must rely on less efficient ways, such as panting, to cool themselves, which places them at high risk for heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening situation. Recommendations to protect your pet from overheating include:

  • Supplying water — Ensure your pet always has access to fresh, clean water. On outings, take bottled water and a portable water bowl, and offer them frequent drinks.
  • Taking breaks — At a July Fourth celebration, your pet may get excited and not stop to cool down, so ensure they take frequent breaks from the festivities and the warm temperatures by resting in the shade or an air-conditioned area. 
  • Recognizing the signs — Monitor your pet for heatstroke signs, which include excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, diarrhea, and collapse.
  • Knowing heat stroke first aid — If you think your pet is overheating, take them to a cool, well-ventilated area, and offer them water. Pour lukewarm water over their body to help bring their temperature down, and get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

#5: Protect your pet from fireworks

Pets and fireworks don’t mix. Never set off fireworks around your pet, because they are dangerous for pets who have a noise phobia and may experience extreme stress and anxiety during a fireworks display. In some cases, keeping your pet in an interior room with music playing to mask the noise is helpful, but sometimes more extreme measures are necessary. You may try to desensitize your pet to the noise, but you need to start months in advance. Steps include:

  • Finding an appropriate sound track — Search online for a fireworks soundtrack that causes a reaction from your pet.
  • Playing the track — While your pet is playing or eating, play the soundtrack at a low enough level that they don’t react.
  • Increasing the volume — At each session, incrementally increase the volume.
  • Lowering the volume — If your pet reacts fearfully, lower the volume to a safe level, and try to increase the volume at the next session.
  • Testing the situation — If your pet reacts favorably and listens to the sound track without fear, don’t assume they will be OK during the annual firework display. Don’t leave them alone on July Fourth. Monitor their reaction during the fireworks to see if they are effectively desensitized.

If your pet continues to be stressed and fearful when exposed to fireworks noise, ask our team if anti-anxiety medications or supplements would be appropriate.

These tips should help you and your pet enjoy July Fourth, but do not hesitate to contact our Wales Animal Clinic team if you would like more information about noise phobias, or to make an appointment to get your pet microchipped before the red, white, and blue celebrations.