The 4th of July is a day of celebration for U.S. citizens throughout all 50 states. Participating in America’s birthday includes picnicking, family get-togethers, hot dogs, libations . . . all culminating with a festive evening of fireworks and light shows. For humans the grand ole flag means a grand ole time . . . for our pets however . . . not so much.

Some pets get so frightened by the noise and flashing lights they might not only race around the house or the yard . . . many often get so disoriented they may leave home altogether.

“Nationwide, July 4th weekend is the busiest shelter intake time of the year. So, while many of us are celebrating a holiday, the shelters will be flooded with pets, many of which will never find their way home,” said Gregory Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society, in an announcement.

“In order to avoid this heartbreaking scenario, we encourage owners to make the holiday as safe as possible for their pets.”

To that end, BFAS offers the following checklist to help keep your pets safe over the holiday weekend:

  • Bring all pets indoors whenever neighborhood fireworks displays are likely. Secure dogs in a room and play music or turn on the television to drown out the frightening sounds.
  • Keep pets away from lit fireworks at all times, including your own backyard, as some will chase after the bright moving objects and are at risk to be burned or blinded in the process.
  • Ensure that pets are wearing current identification tags.
  • For the ultimate identification protection, all pets should be microchipped so that they can scanned at an animal shelter or veterinary office.
  • If your pet does go missing over the holiday, check with local animal shelters immediately. Go to the shelter in person to identify your pet, rather than calling or emailing the shelter, as staff may not be able to respond in a timely enough fashion to ensure your pet’s safety.

To that list the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Poison Control Center suggest the following when it comes to foods and products that can be potentially dangerous to your pets over the 4th.

  • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
  • Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
  • Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.
  • Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pets severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals who have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. And keep in mind that foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes & raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals.
  • Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.
  • Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestions can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.For many people, nothing beats lounging in the backyard on the Fourth of July with good friends and family—including the four-legged members of the household.

Based on these findings and tips, this year include in your planning a little more forethought about how best to protect your dogs and cats, so they too can enjoy the holiday just as much as you.

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