MANHATTAN — The Fourth of July is a time for fun and noisy celebration for many people. But for pets, the summer holiday can be filled with fear and anxiety as well as other dangers, says a Kansas State University veterinarian.
Susan Nelson, clinical professor at the university’s Veterinary Health Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine, says the best way to keep your pets safe this July Fourth is by keeping them mainly indoors and then under leash control when they need to go outside.
“The sound of fireworks can make some pets run off in an attempt to get away from the noise,” Nelson said. “In fact, this is the time of year with the highest incidence of runaway pets.”
Besides getting lost, there is also the risk of getting hit by a car, as a pet’s fear will make it less observant of oncoming traffic, Nelson said. She recommends making sure your pet has some type of ID, such as a tag and/or microchip, in case it should get lost.
If you are going to a large fireworks display to celebrate the holiday, Nelson said keep your pet at home.
“Large firework displays, which come with noise and crowds of people, can cause many pets to become anxious,” she said. “And leaving pets locked in the car is not an option as warm temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”
Just being inside may not be enough for some pets who get anxious or fearful because of loud noises and flashes of light. Nelson recommends putting the pet in a secure room where blinds or heavy curtains can block out light.
“Many dogs will appreciate being in the safe confines of their crate and will do fine if allowed to stay there,” she said.
Nelson also recommends playing soothing music or turning on the TV or white noise machine to help block out the loud crackles and booms of fireworks. Other options to help pets with mild anxiety stay calm are using an anxiety wrap, temporarily relocating your pet to the quieter home of a friend or relative, or taking the pet to a kennel during the holiday.
Some over-the-counter medications, such as Anxiety TFLN, may benefit pets with mild to moderate noise anxiety.
“If your pet has severe noise phobias, talk to your vet about prescription anti-anxiety medication and have it ready to give to the pet on the first day fireworks are allowed,” Nelson said.
The loud noises and bright lights fireworks produce aren’t the only things about them that can be dangerous to pets. Nelson said some fireworks, whether lit or unlit, can be toxic to animals. Also hazardous to pets can be items used to ignite fireworks: lighters, punks, matches, lighter fluid, etc.
“Even if your dog is not bothered by fireworks, it could be burned or injured if it gets too close to the fireworks or attempts to retrieve one which has been ignited,” Nelson said.
Some products people use to make watching fireworks more comfortable — citronella candles and oils, insect coils and repellants, and even the glow-in-the-dark jewelry kids wear — also can be dangerous to pets.
“Keep dangerous items out of your pet’s reach and don’t apply products that aren’t labeled for safe use on pets,” Nelson said. “For example, mosquitoes are often out in force this time of year but don’t be tempted to spray your pet with insect repellants that contain DEET as it is toxic for them. Only apply insect repellants that state they are safe to use on pets.”
The Fourth of July picnic also can be a risky time for a pet. Nelson said it’s important to keep human foods and beverages out of a pet’s reach.
“Pets often experience vomiting and/or diarrhea when given foods they are not used to eating,” she said. “And some foods, such as chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, grapes/raisins, coffee, salt and yeast-based bread dough, are potentially toxic for your pet.”
Alcoholic beverages are always a no-no for your pet, so keep the beer and wine out of reach, Nelson said. Other dangerous items that a pet shouldn’t get include fatty foods, which can lead to life-threatening pancreatitis; corncobs, bones and wooden barbecue skewers can cause blockage of the intestinal tract if swallowed; and candies sweetened with artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, can be toxic.