For most Americans the 4th of July is a day of celebration with food, fun and fireworks. To animals, however, including the majority of our companion animals, fireworks are unfamiliar, painfully loud and terrifying events. So many pets are frightened and disoriented by fireworks that the American Humane Association reports that July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. They are overwhelmed by overwhelmed animals. Summer picnic celebrations can harbor their own hidden dangers for our animal companions. To help you comfort and protect your pets during Independence Day festivities, PugetPets has compiled this list of 4th of July “Do’s and Don’ts.”
Make sure all your pets (even indoor-only pets) have up-to-date identification. If your pets are microchipped, make sure your contact information in the microchip registry is up to date. It’s also a good idea to have recent photos of all your companion animals, just in case.
Unless you know your pet is an exception to the rule, resist the urge to take them to fireworks displays. The crowds, loud noise and burning smells of fireworks are no fun for animals with their super-sensitive ears and noses. In addition, animals’ lack of understanding about what is happening makes these festivities range from nerve-wracking to nightmarish from their perspective.
While the sale and use of fireworks has been banned in the city of Seattle since 1993 (with up to $5,000.00 fines!), this doesn’t stop some local 4th of July celebrators from indulging in their own fireworks displays. Surrounding areas have their own laws, which may differ, and some people may even try to deliberately frighten animals with fireworks. Even if you don’t live near a sanctioned display, there will no doubt be fireworks in your area. Prevent your dogs, cats and other pets from fleeing and becoming lost, injured or killed by keeping them in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home, where they will feel most secure.
Remove any left-over fireworks debris prior to allowing your pets back outside. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.
Consider a Thundershirt for your dog or cat. This light compression vest works by applying a gentle, constant pressure on a dog’s or cat’s torso, which produces a feeling of safety. Keep a garment with your scent on it (yup, dirty laundry!) nearby, especially if you will be gone. Some cats will be helped by catnip, and both dogs and cats have been shown to respond to calming essential oils such as lavender, while more frightened animals may require medication. If you will not be at home with your pet, consider scheduling a reassuring visit with a PugetPets pet sitter.
Sparklers, glow sticks, fireworks, charcoal, lighter fluid and kabob skewers all present possible dangers to pets from toxins or injury. Curious pets are especially vulnerable and should be kept away from these potential hazards.
While your dog may want to get as close to you as possible when frightened, cats are less likely to have this reaction. Most cats feel safest in a small, dark, confined area, and they typically have their favorite “hiding places” already established in your home. If your cats want to hide, let them. Comfort them with your scent and voice (if you’re home), favorite toys and catnip, but unless they seek out your lap, allow them to hunker down.
Levels of toxins present in these substances that may be tolerable to humans can have severe effects on pets. Citronella candles and insect coils are also toxic to pets. Whenever you are camping or picnicking with your pets, provide them with plenty of shade and cover from biting insects, if necessary, and keep them away from these human-specific products. Be sure to check your dog for ticks, if you are in an area where they are prevalent.
Many human picnic treats are toxic to animals, including chocolate, grapes and raisins, yeast dough, onions (including onion powder) and alcoholic beverages (yes, even beer!) Amounts of sugar and salt that humans can handle can make dogs and cats very ill. In addition, nervous pets may have upset digestion, so limit their treats to the ones you are positive they can tolerate well.
Just don’t. Please, don’t.
PugetPets wishes you summer fun on the fourth and a safe, quiet and comforting Independence Day for your pets!