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Although a celebratory day for humans, the July 4th holiday can be dangerous for your dogs’ health and happiness. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that fireworks, picnics, cookouts, and other Fourth of July traditions can be frightening and even dangerous for pets.
Up to half of dogs react fearfully to fireworks, according to owner surveys, and the Fourth of July is among the most active times of year for pet recovery. The sound of fireworks commonly causes dogs to panic and run away.
There are some steps you can take before, during, and after the holiday to keep your dog safe.
Prepare For the Festivities
Desensitize Your Dog to Loud Sounds
Use positive enforcement to show that these loud noises are too scary. Play recordings of fireworks and thunder while you and your dog relax together. As the sounds play, toss your dog a treat. Fireworks may be pretty to humans, but they are very loud and the noise can be extremely scary for your dog. Once the displays get started, keep him in a room where he is safe and relaxed. Block outside sights and sounds as much as possible by lowering the blinds and turning on the television or radio.
Identify Your Dog’s Stress Signals
Dogs that are fearful may whine, pant or drool, pace, tremble, attach themselves to you, or look for a place to hide. Acknowledge this and know when to comfort your dog.
Be Sure Your Dog Is Easy to Identify
Many dogs take flight when they’re frightened. If your dog makes a run for it, are their tags and microchip information up to date? Do you have a current photo? Identification is extremely important in case your dog gets loose. Make sure to keep collar ID tag contact information up to date, have permanent ID with a microchip should his collar fall off, and always alert your pet recovery service to any changes in contact information so they can find you when your dog is recovered. For more information about Microchips and Pet Recovery Services, visit AKCReunite.org.
Get Professional Help if Needed
If your pet’s anxiety is severe, make an appointment with your vet, so you can discuss a medication that could help soothe your dog, and/or solicit assistance from an animal behaviorist. This may help them calm down during these traumatic times.
When You Celebrate
Keep Your Dog Inside in a Safe Space
If you go outside, watch your dog for signs of stress and to talk to and reassure them using a pet camera. Set up an area away from doors and windows, for example in a basement or large closet, where noise is muted. Some dogs feel safest in a crate with their blankets, toys, and treats. Consider whether to bring your dog to a Fourth of July party elsewhere, even if it’s just next door.
Secure Your Doors and Windows
A dog that is truly terrified may bolt through a screen to find a safe place to hide. By making sure everything is shut, you’ll reduce the likelihood of them getting out.
Keep Your Dog on a Leash
When you need to take your dog outside to do his business, go with him and hold on to the leash even in your own backyard, in case fireworks go off during this time.
Keep Curious Dogs Away From Fire
Not only do fireworks, sparklers, and glow sticks scare dogs, but they also contain hazardous chemicals and can burn when they’re hot. Barbecue grills, charcoal, matches, and lighter fluid should also be kept out of reach.
Don’t Let Guests Feed Them Table Scraps
Avoid scraps from the grill. While tempting to our pets, any sudden change to your pets’ diet can cause stomach upset. In addition, certain foods like onions, avocado, grapes, and raisins can be toxic for dogs.
Keep Your Dog Cool Inside the House
July can be a particularly hot time of year. You’re your pet is outside, make sure clean water and shady areas are available. Stay alert for signs that they could be overheating, and never leave your dog in the car on a warm day.
Stay Away From Sunscreen or Insect Repellents Made for Humans
Your dog may lick them and get sick. Keep citronella candles, insect coils, and tiki torch products out of reach. They can be extremely irritating to the stomach, lungs, and central nervous system if ingested.
Comfort Your Nervous Dog
If your dog exhibits signs of severe stress, stay calm and use a soothing tone of voice as you pet them slowly and gently.
After the Holiday
Check Your Yard
Before letting your dog outside to play, look for and remove all fireworks debris, which can be dangerous if ingested. Also remove full trashcans, trash bags, beer cans, drink cups, and food scraps that your pet could get into.