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It’s that time of year, when family and friends gather to celebrate Independence Day. Whether you’re going to a small, intimate gathering, or a larger party, there is bound to be a variety of foods, drinks, and, of course, fireworks throughout the day. While this sounds like fun to most people, your dog may have a different opinion. “Most dogs do not like these types of things,” says Russ Hartstein, a certified behaviorist and dog trainer in Los Angeles. “Some tolerate it, but Fourth of July can be a traumatic experience for them.”

If your holiday plans include attending any type of celebration, consider all of the factors that could potentially cause harm to your dog before you decide to bring him along.

What type of food will be served?

In an uncontrolled environment, your dog might grab something off a plate or gobble up scraps on the floor that could be dangerous to his health. “You almost have to assume your dog is going to eat something he shouldn’t,” says Dr. Carly Fox, a staff doctor at New York’s Animal Medical Center. Some causes for concern are:

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Corn on the cob: This delicious summer staple can break into pieces and lead to intestinal blockage.

Kebabs: The smell of meat can be enticing, but if your dog gets his mouth on a kebab, he could ingest the entire thing — skewer and all. This can cause problems in the GI tract, or worse, puncture something internally.

Bones: Any type of cooked bones can cause GI upset, as well as become lodged in a dog’s intestines.

Cutlery: If ingested by your dog, Styrofoam, paper dishes, plastics cups, and cutlery can cause stomach upset, as well as obstruction. These items contain the scent of food, so naturally, your dog is going to be attracted to them.

Dr. Lucas White, a veterinarian with Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Edmond, Okla., advises that all food be kept out of reach and thrown away in covered trash cans where your four-legged friend won’t be able to find it.

Will there be a lot of people?

Depending on the size of the gathering, there’s a possibility your dog will be around strangers. Try and introduce him to each person and gauge each individual’s reaction. “Not everyone is comfortable around dogs, and dogs can sense a person’s fear,” says Dr. Fox. In any new environment, it’s best to keep your dog on a leash; that way you can control how any new encounter goes. The friendliest, most socialized dog can also be afraid. Alexandra Bassett, a dog trainer and behaviorist at Dog Savvy Los Angeles, says having your dog on a leash allows you to easily calm him should he feel uneasy.

Will the space be enclosed?

Even if the celebration takes place in a contained space, it’s best to keep your dog leashed and by your side. At parties, people are continuously going in and out without realizing a door or gate has been left open. The vivid sights and sounds of fireworks can spook a dog, and his first instinct might be to run as far away from the noise as possible. “A scared dog is not thinking when he becomes traumatized,” says Hartstein. If you plan to bring your pup along, consider packing items such as goggles and earphones for protection, which will reduce sound and shield your dog’s sight.

According to statistics, more dogs are lost during the Fourth of July holiday than any other time of year. Make sure your canine companion’s information is completely up-to-date, from his collar tags to his microchip.

Will there be fireworks?

It’s going to be difficult to escape hearing any noise, especially if you’re at a party. Some dogs are extremely sensitive to loud sounds, so it’s best to keep them as far away as possible from a fireworks display. To help reduce their stress, ensure they have a space they can retreat to where they’ll feel safe. If they accompany you to a party, bring along their favorite blanket, toys, or even their crate. “Dogs are most comfortable in their environment,” says Hartstein.

Even if loud noises don’t faze your dog, he can still be in harm’s way. Fireworks are composed of materials such as gunpowder, sulfur, heavy metals, and dense cardboard, all of which can be extremely dangerous if ingested. Ashes or debris can also land on your dog’s fur, putting him at risk for burns. Before you venture out for Fourth of July, look up the locations of nearby firework displays, so that you can plan accordingly.

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Will there be a pool?

Contrary to popular belief, not every dog can swim. Don’t assume your pup knows how — especially if he’s never been in the water. If you’re going to a party with a pool, either keep your canine companion on a leash to avoid any accidents or make sure someone is monitoring your dog at all times.

Will there be alcohol?

Although you’re not going to hand your dog a cocktail, he might drink from an unattended cup or lap up a spill. Dr. Fox says dogs are often attracted to hard liquor when it’s mixed with something sweet, such as pineapple or cranberry juice. If your dog exhibits signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or unsteady balance, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Part of being a responsible dog owner is knowing what’s best for your canine companion. Before deciding whether to include him in a Fourth of July celebration, make sure to factor in his health and well-being.
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