Written by Carlee Linden | Last Updated November 1st, 2019Carlee Linden is a Content Management Strategist for Best Company. Having majored in Writing Studies, Carlee spends her time refurbishing furniture, watching Netflix, and dreaming of vacationing in Australia.
Great food. Parades. Time with family and friends. Fireworks.
You guessed it. We're talking about the Fourth of July. While the holiday is a great time to get together with friends and family, it's important to remember the health and safety of our furry family members.
Before firing up the grill and enjoying the show, learn how you can keep your pet safe and happy this holiday season.
Exercise early in the day
Generally, a tired pet is a more relaxed pet. If your pet suffers from anxiety and cowers just at the sound of fireworks, give them a nice long exercise session earlier in the day. Just like with humans, anxiety is sometimes merely uncontrollable energy; fortunately, the Fourth of July is a great day to get out and exercise. Take your dog on a nice long walk or hike. Let your cat explore the yard for an hour.
“Make sure they are well exercised during the day either playing outside, going for walks, or bringing your dog to a fully air-conditioned daycare facility like K9 Resorts for a day of play. This way they are more tired at night when the fireworks start.”
— Jason and Steve Parker, K9 Resorts
Keep your pet on a leash
If you decide that your pet can handle the large crowds and loud noises, be sure to keep your pet on a leash at all times. The holiday season brings in a wave of new sights, smells, people, and other dogs. Even dogs that don't usually stray too far from their owners can get caught up in the distracting sights, sounds, and smells. Curious pets might even try to smell, pick up, or chase fireworks, resulting in some severe injuries. To prevent your pet from getting lost, hurt, or stolen, keep your pet on a leash.
“Dogs off-leash can become an issue very quickly. Keep an eye on your dog, and if they are known to wander or get too excited, or try a long leash.”
— Mark Van Wye, Zoom Room
Leave your pet at home
One of the best parts about the Fourth of July is all the daytime activities leading up to the fireworks. Whether you wake up early and watch the parade or peruse the local farmers market, it might be best to leave your pet at home. While a regular weekend might not be too busy, a holiday tends to draw a crowd.
The combination of a multitude of people, an unfamiliar place, and loud noises — think of the popping of firecrackers, high-pitched carnival games, and screaming kids — is pretty overwhelming, even for a human. Now think about how it might affect your cat or dog.
Pet owners should also know that leaving your pet in the car while you enjoy the festivities is extremely dangerous. The temperature in a car can rise to dangerous levels and puts your pet at risk for heat stroke.
Unless your pet is trained to handle unpredictable and dynamic situations, it might be better to leave Fluffy and Fido at home.
“The number one thing to do in order to make sure your dog is safe on the 4th is to simply stay at home with them. Don’t leave them alone, don’t let them out into the yard, and don’t take them on walks in the afternoon when the fireworks are due.”
— Gilad Rom, Huan
Calmly introduce your pet to family and friends
It's normal for family and friends to come over for the Fourth; however, if your pet is young or struggles with anxiety, a large group of people can be overwhelming. Let your guests know about any training or behavior issues before they meet your pet. Approaching an anxious pet head-on is seen as threatening, and your pet will react accordingly. As your guests enter your home, be sure to introduce each person to your pet and allow them to warm up to the visitors. If necessary, give your guests some treats to help earn trust.
“Try calming treats designed to help relieve stress. These typically contain calming and natural extracts like lavender and chamomile. CBD products are also great for reducing pet anxiety and they support normal healthy brain activity and nerve function. Try a calming oil or snacks with hemp.”
— Tim Wall, Pet Supplies Plus
Ignore those puppy eyes
BBQ's and drinks are the foundations of a great Fourth of July party. However, no matter how much your pet begs for a piece of steak off the grill or whines when you take a bite of potato salad, it's important not to feed your pet human food. A sudden change to your pet's diet can cause unpleasant indigestion or diarrhea. Onions, grapes, chocolate, avocado, raisins, and alcoholic drinks can be extremely toxic to animals. If you're hosting, be on the lookout for unattended plates of food that are left within your pets reach.
If your pet ate something it shouldn't have, please call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Look for warning signs
New pet owners might not know exactly how their pet will react during all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, so it's essential to be on the lookout for signs of fear and anxiety.
“If you have not exposed your dog to fireworks, then a good way to start is by setting your pup up for success first. You can do this by having someone with some type of loud noisemakers (such as speakers airhorns, cowbells, whistles to name a few) at a good distance away while your dog is being entertained or playing to get a feel for their initial reactions to these noises. Typically, a dog that is reactive (fearful or aggressive) of fireworks is also fearful or aggressive of other noises like thunder and/or vehicles braking or backfiring, so this may give us some insight to how they will be around fireworks.”
— Jeff Franklin, Cobra Canine
Much like humans, every pet will react differently to their stress and not all symptoms of anxiety will be loud and disruptive. Watch your pet carefully and look for the following symptoms:
- Hiding or seeking solitude
- Seeking affection from their owner
- Shaking or panting
- Excessively licking or chewing their fur
- Signs of aggression (growling, hair raised, snapping, hissing, ears back)
- Abundant energy
- Trying to escape (digging or running along the fence line)
- Excretion (even house-trained dogs can have an accident if they're under extreme stress)
- Destructive behavior (chewing, scratching or nibbling on furniture or other household objects)
“In high-stress environments, many of these symptoms may not seem that concerning, but they can progress if you do not intervene. Heavy panting and breathing can lead to dehydration and overheating, so keep your dog hydrated and cool if possible. Limit exposure to strangers as heightened territorial behaviors are common. They will already be suspicious of their surroundings to have random people petting or approaching them can lead to biting or growling out of fear.”
— Krystn Janisse, Homes Alive Pets
Prep a quiet room for them to spend the night in
Caring for an anxious pet might require a little preparation, but will give both you and your pet some peace of mind. Set apart one room in the house that is just for your pet. Bring in their favorite toys, blankets, and even leave a few treats around the room. If your pet sleeps in a crate, leave the door open (that way if your pet gets scared, they won't hurt themselves trying to get out). You can even turn on the TV or radio to provide some distracting background noise.
If you're throwing a party at your house, be sure to check on your pet from time to time. If you're going to be away for the night, make sure your pet has ample food, water, and somewhere to relieve themselves.
“Keep the room cool and use aromatherapy – Lavender is a good choice.”
— Robert Cabral, Wag!
Make sure your pet tags are updated and readable
If it's been a few years since you've looked at your dog or cats name tags, now might be a good time. If you have moved or gotten a new phone number, be sure to get a replacement tag with the updated information. If none of the information has changed, but the words are worn down or near impossible to read, it's time for a new tag.
While pet tags are fairly reliable, you may want to consider microchipping your pet. While tags can easily fall off or break, the microchip is simply implanted under your pet's skin and contains your name, contact information, and proof of ownership. A 2009 study revealed that microchipped dogs are twice as likely to be returned, while cats are 20 times more likely to be returned if they are microchipped.
“In order to ensure your dog makes it back home safely, make sure your dog is wearing a collar with ID tags that have your current information. If you are going out of town and your dog is being taken care of by someone else, make sure he has that person’s information on his collar too.”
— Dana Humphrey, The Pet Lady
Be prepared to make a lost pet flyer
Have a picture or two or three on hand that you can post on social media and flyers. Be sure to include a detailed description of your pet (not just their breed but their specific coloring), what color of collar they're wearing, where they disappeared, as well as any medical issues.
“If your pet does run away, be sure to have a current, clear digital image to upload to lost pet social media pages and websites. Do your research in advance and have contact info for these resources at the ready. Also, make lost animal posters to distribute in your area, including with local veterinary clinics and animal rescues. File a lost animal report immediately with your local municipal animal shelter and check their found animal reports daily.”
— Cynthia Bullock, Harley’s Hope Foundation
Check your local shelter
If your pet managed to escape through an open window, a hole in the fence, or bust through a screen, one of the first places you should check is your local animal shelter.
Shelters across the United States often deal with an influx of pets around the 4th and 5th of July. Pet owners are often distracted by the Fourth of July festivities and don't notice that their pet is gone until hours after the event.
“There are several advantages to going to the shelter to see if your dog is there. For one, you can confirm whether or not your dog is there with your own eyes. Also, importantly, you’re taking some pressure off of the shelter’s staff by going to look for your dog. Fourth of July is an extremely busy time for shelters since so many animals escape. Naturally, they’re flooded with calls and inquiries. By checking in at the shelter, you can also drop off a photo and contact information for your pet, should they end up there.”
— Andrea Servadio, Fitdog
Clean up after the party
It just isn’t a Fourth of July party unless there are streamers, balloons, firecrackers and leftover plates strewn about the house. However, before letting your pet roam around, be sure to clean up all decorations. Otherwise your pet might pick up something that isn’t food.
“Before letting your dog roam around the post-party area, clean the room from head to toe, ensuring that all balloons, streamers, party hats, etc. are thrown away or swept up. These items can be extremely dangerous in your pet’s intestines, causing a blockage. Make sure your home is clean and safe to avoid an unwanted trip to the vet.”
— Lorraine Rhoads, Dogtopia