Store shelves filled with star-spangled decorations and your favorite summer snacks signal that July Fourth is right around the corner. However, the same way you prepare for family gatherings, you must prepare your pet for summer celebration blasts and unforeseen hazards.
Many pet owners dread the July Fourth holiday because they want to protect their “pet-trified,” firework-fearing four-legged companions. Pets’ noise aversion, which includes fireworks fear, is common, with more than one-third of dogs affected, and many more undiagnosed.
Pet owners should also prepare to protect their pets from other summer holiday hazards such as pet-toxic food and fear-related injuries. Our Companion Veterinary Clinic team offers these four safety tips to ensure you and your pet have a safe and festive July Fourth celebration.
#1: Recognize pets’ noise-aversion signs
Pets, especially dogs, can become easily startled or anxious from sudden, unfamiliar, loud noises such as gunshots, thunder, and fireworks. Some pets may react to specific noises only, like fireworks. However, if your pet exhibits a continued, extreme reaction (e.g., hiding or trembling for an extended period), they may be suffering from noise aversion.
Noise-averse pets may react moderately, but some pets react intensely by behaving destructively, or breaking through a door or fence and running away. In fact, animal shelters’ busiest day is July Fourth, because many noise-averse pets go missing in their attempt to escape loud noises.
Noise aversion often goes undiagnosed, because pet owners see this behavior as normal. Additionally, noise-averse pets are more likely to have other fear disorders, such as separation anxiety. Causes may include pain, hormonal diseases, neurological disorders, cognitive dysfunction, or a genetic predilection, but noise-aversion signs can mimic other disease signs, so a veterinary examination is in order if your pet exhibits any of the following behaviors:
- Consuming more water than usual
- Holding their tail between the legs
- Displaying unpredictable, sudden, or destructive behaviors (e.g., escaping)
- Nuzzling or demonstrating clingy behavior
- Urinating or defecating inappropriately
#2: Schedule your pet’s veterinary examination, and check their chip
Regularly scheduled veterinary examinations can ensure your pet remains healthy. If you suspect your pet is noise averse, let one of our Companion Veterinary Clinic veterinarians perform your pet’s nose-to-tail examination to confirm this condition and recommend noise-aversion treatment, which is multimodal, and may include behavior modifications and prescription medications. Our veterinarian may recommend blood tests to determine your pet’s overall organ health, eliminate underlying medical problems, and prescribe appropriate noise-aversion medications.
Your pet may be showing no illness signs, but now may be a good time to ensure their microchip is functioning, and your contact information is current. A microchip is your pet’s only permanent, unalterable identification that can easily be placed or updated during a routine veterinary wellness examination. Missing pets who are properly identified with a microchip have more than a 50% chance of being reunited with their family. Your microchipped pet should still wear their collar or tag that includes your current contact information, allowing for quick identification.
#3: Create a pets-only party room
Remembering to monitor your pet’s whereabouts and activities can be overwhelming amid the planning and party chaos. Your pet may be overwhelmed, too, by the unfamiliar people and smells, so give them a calm, quiet, and safe retreat by designating a pets-only room, with a door sign asking guests to refrain from disturbing your pet. Prepare the room by:
- Closing window shades to dampen outside sounds and remove fireworks’ visual cues
- Including your pet’s favorite toy, blanket, and treat
- Playing soft, calming music to muffle fireworks noise
- Using pheromone sprays, such as Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats, to promote your pet’s wellbeing
- Wrapping your pet in an anxiety vest (i.e., ThunderShirt), which provides gentle pressure around their torso to decrease stress
#4: Keep your pet away from the grill and your plate
Although your pet may want to assist as you grill your July Fourth barbecue feast, the National Fire Prevention Association advises keeping pets more than three feet away from grills to prevent injuries like burned paws and singed whiskers.
The grill is not the only summer celebration hazard. Grilled foods and other popular July Fourth specialties can be toxic to your pet, or lead to gastrointestinal problems, so avoid sharing your plate with your pet. Instead, to prevent injury or illness, give your pet their favorite treat or toy during mealtime. Immediately call one of our Companion Veterinary Clinic veterinarians or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if your pet ingests any of the following pet-toxic foods:
- Corn cobs
- Raw meats or bones
- Alcoholic drinks or desserts
- Raw yeast dough
- Sugar-free foods
Our Companion Veterinary Clinic professionals wish you and your pet a fun-filled and safe July Fourth holiday. Do not hesitate to schedule an appointment to ensure your pet’s microchip identification information is up to date, or if you suspect your pet is suffering from noise aversion.