With all the excitement and preparation that occurs as we celebrate our nation’s independence on the Fourth of July, often our dogs get left out. While we’re busy enjoying food, drinks, summertime sun, and fireworks, our unattended pets may be hiding under the bed or in the bathtub, and are more fearful than festive. What is it about Independence Day and other holidays that make our pets frightened? Here are a few tips to help keep our pets safe for the Fourth of July.
Loud Noises and Pets
By the time their hearing develops at 21 days old, puppies can hear 4 times the distance as humans and perceive a broader range of high-pitched frequencies from 67-45,000 Hz, compared to a human range of 64-23,000 Hz. Imagine the high-pitched squeal of a firework launching into the air followed by a blast 4 times as powerful as the sound we hear. Now imagine you have no idea what caused that noise. Painful? Scary? You bet!
In my own experience, fireworks, thunderstorms, the doorbell ringing, and children screaming all became much more bearable for our senior dog as her sense of hearing diminished. While waiting for aging changes is not a solution, I’ve got some tips to help you through the season.
Pet Safety Tips for Independence Day
How can we provide a safe environment for our pets on July 4th without inadvertently reinforcing their anxious behavior by coddling them and telling them “there, there”?
Leave Your Pet at Home
Resist the urge to bring your pet with you to the party. Take a cue from your dog if they like to hide under the bed or in a bathtub. An enclosed, quiet interior place, or better yet, the sanctuary of their crate made quiet with a heavy quilt or other sound barrier for protection can be a huge help.
Anxiety-Reducing Items for Pets
Thundershirts securely swaddle your dog, providing a calming sensation and some relief for about 50% of pets. Anti-anxiety supplements such as valerian root, Bach Flower essence (Rescue Remedy), Adaptil pheromones, melatonin, or the L-theanine found in the chewable Composure are all aids. Playing classical music such as that found on the CD Through a Dog’s Ears helps alleviate stress.
For dogs that are especially anxious, salivating, pawing the ground, whining, or destroying bedding and walls, taking prescription medication available through your veterinarian may be advisable. It’s best to err on the side of caution and medicate your pet sooner rather than later; typically, fear that is not managed becomes worse over time as anticipation and reactivity increase.
Some common medications currently recommended are trazodone or alprazolam. Do a test run a few weeks prior to the Fourth of July to check the medication’s effect on your dog; often times combining aids and medications is needed to relieve stress.
Keep Toxic Foods Away
With an abundance of grilling food and drinks readily accessible, dogs may take advantage and snitch a few bites. Chocolate, garlic, onions, grapes or raisins, and high fatty foods such as chicken should be away from your pets. Pancreatitis, intestinal blockages, and diarrhea are commonly ailments treated at emergency clinics around the holidays.
Micro-chipping and Updated ID Tags
Because we are often distracted, our pets can take a backseat to party preparations, guests, and celebration. In one case, I treated a dog with a leg fracture. He had been hit by a car after sneaking past an open door and was hit while crossing a busy intersection.
At a minimum, make sure your pet has a microchip and current ID tags should they breach security. If you feel like you may have too much on your plate, literally and figuratively, consider boarding your dog for a few days as long as they aren’t anxious away from home.
Beware of Hot Temperatures
Temperatures are often quite high during the month of July. Because your dog can only release heat via panting and the few glands on their foot-pads, they are prone to heatstroke. Keep your pet in an air-conditioned space, with cool water, and shade.
Pugs, bulldogs, and other flat-faced breeds are especially sensitive to heat stress. Never, not ever, leave your pet in a car while you are out running errands. A car can exceed 100 degrees in minutes even if the outdoor temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees.
Check your Yard for Firework Debris
After the Fourth of July celebrations, explore the remains of the backyard party and do a search of the space before you let your dog out. You may be surprised to a still warm grill, a cell phone, corn cob, fizzled sparklers and other debris littering the ground. All these things are hazards to your pet. Clean up first, rest later, and snuggle up with your dog for a nap in the cool of the A/C.
Keep these Fourth of July pet safety tips in mind, and have a happy and safe Independence Day!