The Fourth of July is the summer holiday, so many Americans look forward to. It’s a time for cookouts, camping, swimming, and of course, fireworks! But it can be a time when our furry, canine friends could get neglected. With so many new experiences, new foods, and new smells, it’s important to keep in mind the safety of your dog during the festivities. Here are four tips for a happy 4th of July with your pup!
Tips For a Safe and Fun 4th of July
What to Do About Fireworks
This is perhaps the number one thing dog owners worry about on Independence Day. The loud noise of fireworks can greatly upset dogs and cause them a lot of stress. This includes both fireworks in your backyard and large, public fireworks displays. If you plan to set off fireworks in your yard, always leave your pet indoors. The ASPCA cautions that even unlit fireworks should be kept away from pets. While lit fireworks can cause burns and other injuries to dogs, unlit fireworks may contain chemicals that can be toxic to dogs and other pets if ingested. Store them high up and out of reach of your pets.
When setting the fireworks off, your dog should stay in the house. The Humane Society recommends turning on the tv or the radio to cover up the loud and potentially frightening noises for your dog. You can also try giving your dog a fun treat to keep them busy during the fireworks.
It is likely that a dog will not do well at public fireworks display either. Besides the noise of the fireworks being frightening, the crowds could cause anxiety and stress for your dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that some dogs may even run away when frightened by fireworks. It is best to leave your dog at home, safely in a crate with a treat to keep them busy and soft music playing to distract from the sound of fireworks.
Sometimes these methods don’t always work. Veterinarians can prescribe medications that will relax and even mildly sedate your dog so that neither of you experiences stress. Sometimes drugs such as Prozac are prescribed. The New York Times recently reported on a new drug called Sileo, a newly FDA approved amedication that works as a mild sedative. The drug is administered via a syringe, takes effect within 30 minutes, and typically lasts a couple of hours. Though most vets recommend desensitizing your dog to loud noises as a permanent cure, this new drug could be a wonderful temporary solution.
Inviting the Dog to a BBQ
Cook outs and barbeques are a time for humans to relax and enjoy each other’s company. So it can be easy to forget to keep your dog comfortable during the festivities. The biggest temptation for your dog at a barbeque will be the food. If your dog has an uncontrollable habit of stealing table scraps, consider keeping the dog on a leash and with you at all times.
On the other hand, most dogs will try begging for food from the guests. Feeding your dog human food should be discouraged. Sudden changes in diet can upset your dog’s digestion and cause vomiting or diarrhea. A few foods at barbeques can be toxic to dogs. The AKC advises staying away from onions, avocados, grapes, and raisins. The ASPCA also has a handy guide listing all the human foods to avoid feeding your pet. As an alternative, keep some dog treats handy! Many guests will want to spoil your dog, so keep some canine-friendly options on hand. This way your pup can take part in the food festivities with you.
Another big concern when celebrating the Fourth with dogs is the sun and heat. Always keep a bowl of fresh water handy for your dog and refill it as necessary. Show your dog where it is so they can help themselves.
The AVMA also suggests providing a shady spot for your pup to relax in throughout the day. If you have no natural shade from buildings or trees, consider setting up a tented area for your dog and the guests. Without a shaded area, your dog may crawl under the food table to cool down. This could create a mess if your dog bumps the table! And if your pup seems especially overheated, bring them inside to an air-conditioned space or a room with a fan.
Summer Products to Avoid
The Fourth of July means new sounds, new foods, and also new summer products. The AKC reminds dog owners that many toys or products humans use during warm weather have the potential to be harmful to dogs. One thing a dog owner should never do is use human sunscreen or human bug spray on a dog. These products are not designed to be canine-friendly and have the potential to be toxic. If your dog has a decent coat of fur and has been medicated for ticks and fleas, sunscreen and bug spray won’t be necessary. Some dogs do however have exposed skin and may need protection from the sun. In this case, a product such as Epi-Pet is a great choice for dogs with sensitive skin.
As for other products that get used during the summer, the best rule of thumb is to keep them out of mouth and out of reach. The ASPCA lists a few things that dog owners should watch out for: matches, lighter fluid, citronella candles, insect coils, tiki torch oil, and glow jewelry are all products that should be kept away from your dog. Many of these contain chemicals that are toxic to dogs – even matches! Some matches may contain chlorates that can potentially damage your dog’s blood cells. Many of these chemicals can also be a skin irritant and should be kept away from your dog in all instances.
Prevent Your Dog from Getting Lost
More pets get lost on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. The New York Times states that animal shelters have their busiest day of the year on July 5th. Want to avoid being a part of that statistic? There are steps you can take to ensure your dog’s safety on Independence Day.
Proper identification tags are crucial. Before the festivities begin, make sure your dog’s tags are up to date and attached to their collar. And keep that collar on at all times! Have your information printed on one of the tags in case your dog does get lost. The AVMA also recommends that dog owners consider getting their dog microchipped. Many microchips have saved lost dog’s lives, returning them to their owners much more quickly. Consult with your veterinarian about the procedure.
A good fence makes an excellent defense. If you have a fence in your yard, check it for weak spots. Replace any parts that are broken or breaking. And check the base of the fence for holes. An anxious dog may dig under a fence in an attempt to escape a stressful situation, and any ready-made hole will only help in the escape. If you don’t have a fence, consider adding one to your yard. Or install a dog run so your dog can be on-leash at all times but still enjoy some freedom in the yard.
All these safety tips should be paired with lots of love and affection for your dog. After all, it is a holiday! Take precautions so you both can play with peace of mind. Keep your dog’s happiness as a priority, and everyone will be sure to have a happy Fourth of July!