Updated: Jul 31, 2020
It’s that time of year again! Barbeques, picnics, pool parties, and fireworks…just some good ol’ wholesome fun, right? Not quite.
The image is of a colorful fireworks show that lights the entire night sky.
Summer, and particularly the 4th of July, can be a very dangerous time for your pet. More pets end up picked up by animal control or hit by cars on July 4th-5th than any other time of year. Some county shelters report that up to 30% of the animals brought in for the entire year come in on July 5th!
So what can you do to keep your pet safe?
Here are some tips for dealing with fireworks:
Stay home with your pet, particularly if they are under 2 years old, and keep them INDOORS. If you must take him out to potty, keep him on a leash, even in your own yard. You want his first experience with the 4th of July to be fun and safe in order to prevent a lifetime of fear.
If you cannot stay home with your pet, leave them with a friend who is staying in, hire a pet sitter, or perhaps even board them in a facility that is staffed 24/7, preferably in a city that does not allow fireworks.
Keep all the doors and windows shut, and provide a safe place for your pet to hide, such as a dry bathtub, shower, or covered crate, with comfy bedding/blankets. You may want to even give them an old T-shirt that smells like you to help them feel safe.
Starting now, play calming music, such as Through a Dog’s Ear or other light classical music, while your dog is relaxing. You can be massaging them or giving them a stuffed Kong, bully stick, or other bone to chew. The key is that they hear it during relaxation first, and then you will later use it to help drown out the sound of the fireworks while offering the massage and/or chew item again.
If calming music doesn’t help, try playing loud music, tv, or movies. Assuming loud noises on the tv don’t bother your dog, action movies are usually the best for drowning out fireworks.
Drive your dog near Disneyland every night to practice. Bring treats (like boiled chicken or diced hot dogs), toys, and chews to keep him occupied. Start further away with the windows up, where you can just start to hear it, and over the course of a few nights, drive closer, and eventually roll your windows down. Make sure that you do this gradually enough that your dog doesn’t really seem to notice the noise. If he looks hyper-alert, is taking the treats very hard, or worse, he won’t take the treats, you are way too close.
Try other calming aids such as the Thundershirt (again, introduce it now during happy times), Rescue Remedy, Comfort Zone Spray with DAP, or Valerian root extract.*
DO NOT use a tranquilizer (such as acepromazine) unless your dog is already self-injurious and other medications are not an option as it can increase noise sensitivity and anxiety in your dog. Tranquilizers keep your pet from being able to move, but your pet will still be aware of the scary noises and they are trapped in their own body! If your dog already has noise phobias, talk to your veterinary behaviorist now – don’t wait! – about other medications, such as alprazolam, trazadone, or Sileo, as they may help with the underlying anxiety.*
Keep your pet properly identified. Make sure your pet is microchipped (and that it is registered with up-to-date contact info) and that your dog’s ID tags have your current address phone number. In case your pet somehow escapes, these measures will help you get them back home again.
Lastly, be careful in the following days. There may be loose dogs that haven’t been caught by animal control, and there will likely be a lot of trash left out. Spent fireworks, lighters, and matches are very toxic, and there may be chicken bones, candy, glow sticks, and other dangers left out as well. Make sure to review your Leave It exercises starting now.
General summer safety tips:
Keep bones (chicken, ribs, steak, etc.), skewers, fat trimmings/skin, corn cobs, melon rinds, alcohol, chocolate, nuts, grapes, avocado, onions, and sugar-free (xylitol) treats away from your dog. Some are choking hazards, others are toxic. If your pet ingests one of these items, call your emergency vet immediately.
Be careful of bug-repellents and other chemicals. Lighters and matches, and human bug-sprays and sunblocks are toxic to dogs – this includes citronella products. (Yes, the stuff they put in bark collars is toxic when inhaled/ingested).
Do not assume that your pet can swim. Leaving your dog loose around a pool can be disastrous! Many dogs do not know how to swim, some may chase/push children into the pool, and others may jump in to try to “save” swimmers and actually drown someone in the process. When in doubt, keep your dog out [of the pool area], and never leave dogs unattended by the pool.
*This information is not intended as medical advice and may not be taken as such. This is solely intended to provide talking points for you and your veterinarian. Any and all medications and supplements must be discussed with your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist as many medications or supplements cannot be given in conjunction with one another or if your pet has underlying health issues.