The Fourth of July, with its colorful fireworks and barbecues, is a highlight each summer.
For humans, at least. For pets, it’s often another story.
“Pets do not understand our fascination with loud banging noises,” said Michael Foss, DVM, Hood River Alpine veterinarian. “Their hearing is more sensitive than ours and their only way to get away from the noise is to escape.”
It’s why veterinarians and pet shelters see an uptick in visits during this time of year.
“Vet clinics around the nation will see pets in their emergency rooms due to trauma from pets running away from their homes due to fear, burns from pets trying to jump or catch fireworks in their mouths, and dog bites,” said Foss.
Rachel Cates, animal control officer at the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, said there were 11 animal control calls for service during last year’s celebration, with three dogs impounded. Lauren Halliday, co-manager of Hood River Adopt A Dog, noted Independence Day brings a “huge uptake in strays … all terrified.”
Below are their tips for keeping pets safe during the Fourth of July — and all year long.
Keep pets indoors. “We all enjoy having our beloved pets near us, but if you are planning on leaving home for the Fourth, if possible, leave your pet indoors,” said Cates. “Pets can become frightened by noises and flashes from fireworks, so lower your blinds and close windows and doors.”
“A safe place like a crate or a small, quiet room would be preferable, as dogs can sometimes get so anxious, they’ll jump out the window,” said Halliday. “Some quiet white noise can help distract them from the loud noises outside (such as a TV or radio on low volume).”
Foss said that pets should be indoors at least an hour before fireworks begin, and that water should be available to them as well as proper ventilation, especially if it is hot. “If you have a cat, make sure you do not leave the window open for your cat to escape,” he said. “Also check on your pet from time to time to be sure your pet is comfortable and quiet.”
For larger animals like horses, place the animal in a stall or small, sturdy pen, Foss advises. “Barns and hay storage areas are highly flammable; do not set fireworks off in a barn or near those areas,” he said.
Don’t take pets to areas where there will be fireworks. Pets in a heightened state of anxiety will not act like themselves, warned Foss. “They may become more aggressive, they won’t respect their normal boundaries and they may try to escape from their yards or pens,” he said. “Some pets may hide in places you are amazed they could get into.”
He advises caution when bringing pets to strange locations, such as to the park or a party. “We see many dog-aggressive bites between pets and, unfortunately, people, over territory when dogs are frightened due to fireworks or large crowds.”
If you must take your pet out, make sure it is leashed, he said.
Update animal ID. Up to date identification will help animal control and shelter services should a pet become lost. “Tags should always be worn, but a microchip is even more helpful because collars can slip off,” said Halliday.
Said Cates, “If your dog does escape and is wearing a Hood River County dog tag, we will be able to return your dog to you. Cats should also have a collar and an ID tag with the owner’s phone number and address.”
“If you are going to leave your pet in the yard, be sure your pet cannot escape,” said Foss. “Unfenced yards will not deter your pet when it is frightened; pets won’t respect invisible fencing and may find themselves out on the street, where they can be easily hit by a moving car.”
Keep drugs, alcohol and food out of reach. “It is not funny to get your dog intoxicated,” said Halliday. “You’re putting their life on the line.” And because many human foods can be toxic to animals, it’s important to clean up after a celebration. “Trash, bones, skewers and matches, etc., are all harmful. Make sure nothing is lying around for your dog to access,” she said.
“Marijuana is toxic to dogs and can affect them for up to three days after exposure,” said Foss. “Signs of marijuana toxicity in dogs are incoordination, heavy panting, unresponsive to command, inability to get up and stand, head tilt and staggering in circles or to one side. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to marijuana, call your veterinarian immediately for proper assessment and treatment.”
Consult a vet before administering any medication. “Pets that are known to be especially anxious during the Fourth can be medicated to help them through the holiday,” Foss said. “Please consult your veterinarian if you feel your pet may need extra support during this time.”
Human medications can be harmful — even lethal — to pets, said Halliday, so it’s important to consult a veterinarian first.
Do not lock pets in the car. “This time of the year, with the weather warming up, it is never a good idea to leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, even for short trips to the store,” said Cates.
Wear your pet out. “A tired dog is a happy dog,” said Cates. “Take your dog out early in the day before the holiday celebration begins. Getting rid of your dog’s excess energy will help keep him calm in the evening.”
Bottom line: Plan to keep your pets indoors and consider how to keep them most comfortable before the fireworks begin.
“A little precaution and prior planning will help both you and your pet enjoy this wonderful holiday,” said Foss.