Independence Day is one of the most dangerous holidays for pets, but you can take a few precautions and still enjoy a fun, festive, and pet-friendly Fourth. 

Make plans to celebrate good pets and good times with this pet-safe summer party planning guide from South Shores Pet Clinic.

Stay safe and sound: Avoid pet escape

July Fifth is the busiest day of the year at U.S. shelters and animal control facilities, because more pets go missing on July Fourth than any other day of the year.  

Lost pets most commonly panic and flee from their homes because of noisy July Fourth fireworks, but others escape through open doors or gates during busy block parties, or slip away during a chaotic carnival scene or patriotic parade. 

The best way to avoid pet loss is to avoid taking them to large, noisy events, ensure all guests know and follow the house rules for your pet, and leaving nervous or anxious pets at home and indoors during the fireworks. Also, ensure your pet always wears their collar and tags with up-to-date, legible identification and their microchip is registered in your name with current contact information.. 

Let the fireworks fizzle out: Help your pet stay calm during the chaos

Approximately one-third of U.S. dogs suffer from noise aversion or hypersensitivity to loud, harsh, or unpredictable sounds. Affected pets respond with extreme emotion similar to human panic attack, and may take hours or days to recover.

If your pet is anxious about loud sounds, plan to feed and exercise them in the early afternoon on July Fourth. Then, before the fireworks begin, confine them to a quiet interior space, such as a small room or covered crate, in your home. Surround your pet with comforting things, such as their bed and favorite toys, and distract them with a food-stuffed Kong or long-lasting chew. Finally, play white noise or classical music and install a pet pheromone diffuser (e.g., Adaptil for dogs, Feliway for cats) to keep them calm.

If your pet has a history of noise-related anxiety, ask your South Shores Pet Clinic veterinarian about medication to relieve your pet’s distress.

Chill out: Avoid heat-related pet emergencies with these cooling tips

When temperatures rise, so do your pet’s chances of a heat-related emergency. Unlike humans, pets don’t sweat, and instead rely on panting to cool their bodies. Unfortunately, when ambient temperatures rise above 70 degrees, panting is inefficient, and pets can rapidly succumb to heatstroke (i.e., hyperthermia). Flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic pets), senior pets, obese pets, and excitable or high-energy pets are at higher heatstroke risk.

Help your pet beat the heat and avoid heat-related emergencies with these cooling strategies:

  • Staying indoors — Take the party indoors and enjoy the air-conditioning with your pet.
  • Exercising in the morning or evening — Reschedule outdoor events for cooler hours.
  • Using cooling mats and bandanas — Pet-friendly cooling products are a great way to keep pets comfortable.
  • Serving frozen treats — Frozen Kongs, pupsicles, and frozen watermelon slices are a tasty way to keep your pet cool and hydrated.
  • Taking frequent breaks — Don’t trust your pet to regulate their activity, especially when everyone else is having fun. Ensure they take rest breaks to avoid exhaustion-related injury.
  • Leaving your pet at homeNever leave your pet in a parked vehicle, no matter how briefly you’ll be gone, or whether you park the car in the shade with the windows rolled down. If you can’t take your pet inside at your destination, leave them at home.

Show good taste: Keep harmful cookout foods out of your pet’s reach

July Fourth cookouts are a summer rite of passage, but for pets, that passage can lead directly to the veterinary emergency room.=

Cookouts can be hazardous for a multitude of reasons, including less supervision, overly indulgent guests, a searing hot grill, and dangerous or pet-toxic foods. If your pet will be joining your backyard bash or block party, keep them leashed or otherwise confined, and monitor their behavior. Avoid feeding them rich foods, which may cause painful pancreatitis, or any food that contains pet-toxic ingredients (e.g., onions, grapes, chocolate, alcohol, raisins, xylitol). Never let your pet chew on a bone or corn cob, which can become lodged in their intestine and require emergency surgical removal. 

Respect the road: Secure your pet during car travel

Insurance companies estimate that unrestrained pets are responsible for tens of thousands of vehicle accidents every year. Ensure your ride is smooth and safe by securing your pet in a crate, carrier, or well-fitted pet seat belt. These devices not only minimize potentially deadly distractions, but also ensure your pet won’t become a dangerous projectile during sudden braking, turns, or a crash. Seat belts and crates also prevent pet escape at rest stops, where eager or stressed pets may rush to get out of the car.

Your shotgun-riding pet may be cute, but everyone inside the car is safer when dogs and cats are appropriately restrained.

July Fourth can be a risky holiday for pets, but that doesn’t mean your plans need to fizzle. With careful planning and consideration, you and your four-legged friend can celebrate your freedom and friendship, and stay safe. If you’d like to inquire about anxiety-reducing medication to calm your pet’s noise phobia, or your pet’s microchip to be checked before the big day, contact South Shores Pet Clinic.