For many of us, the 4th of July holiday is a much-anticipated celebration of summer filled with food, friends, family, and traditionally fireworks. Many fireworks displays have been canceled due to restrictions on public gathering thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, so the temptation do DIY a display at home may be even greater. However, it is important to consider the unintended effects on our furry family members and neighbors.
Erin Forbes, a veterinarian with Mountain View Animal Hospital in Essex Junction, is reminding Vermonters that this holiday can be very stressful and dangerous for pets. “Firework shows, barbeques, and heat of the day can all pose issues for our companion animals,” she said.
Dogs, cats, horses, and even livestock can react severely to fireworks, causing themselves injury and even death. So here are some ways to keep your pets and livestock safe when you or your neighbors plan to set off fireworks:
First, never leave pets alone outdoors, even if they are tethered or in a fenced-in yard. When they panic, it is not uncommon for dogs to escape their tethers or collars, or injure themselves in a frenzied attempt to escape. Dr. Forbes said that many animal shelters report increases of stray intakes after the Fourth of July holiday due to the number of pets who run away to escape the loud and frightening noise of fireworks.
If you plan to attend a fireworks celebration, leave your pets at home. And whether it’s you or your neighbors setting them off at home, keep small pets indoors, in an interior room without windows, and turn on the TV or radio to help distract them and drown out the noise. Keep horses in their stalls if possible and consider talking with your veterinarian about prescribing mild sedatives during this time.
You should also make sure your pet has ID tags with current and accurate information and/or a microchip so that you are easily reached if your pet runs away. Do not allow children to waive sparklers at pets, and if your pet is fearful during fireworks, don’t punish their anxious behavior.
Some of our favorite 4th of July food choices can also be dangerous to our pets, so be sure to consider your pet’s safety when putting together your menu and discourage guests from feeding your dog human foods.
“People like to feed pets treats but grapes, chocolate, onions, and garlic can be toxic to pets and all of these are generally available at Fourth of July BBQs. Further, if using an outdoor grill, some animals may try to jump up and get the food off the grill, this can lead to severe burns, so keep them away from temptation. If you’re hosting guests, ask them to help keep an eye on your pets to make sure they don’t escape. Placing notes on exit doors and gates can help both you and your guests remain vigilant,” Dr. Forbes said.
Finally, with temperatures set to hover in the 80’s this weekend, it may be too hot for your pets to be outside for long periods of time. In high heat, pets should be kept inside and should always have access to shade and fresh, cool water when outside. And keep your eyes on them to make sure they are feeling ok.
“Don’t leave them outside at a party unattended as they may start to show signs of heatstroke, which can be life-threatening,” Forbes said.
If you have concerns about your animals during July Fourth celebrations, talk with your veterinarian about the best ways to keep your pets safe.