It’s that time of year again for fireworks, backyard barbecues, and Americana clothing emblazoned with red, white, and blue. Yes, the 4th of July holiday looms, as does the possibility your pet will suffer stress, trauma, or illness associated with the festivities.
How can your pet catch a break and stay healthy? You, the responsible caretaker, must educate yourself on the holiday’s hazards and proactively prepare to protect your pet in every conceivable environment.
Here are my top five July 4th holiday pet safety tips:
1. Firework safety: Restrict your pet’s access to the immediate or adjacent area where fireworks are being set off. Keep your pet indoors in a quiet, cool, isolated part of your home. Put on your pet’s favorite television program (Animal Planet anyone?) or play music to mask firework sounds. If needed, confine your pet to a comfortable crate to prevent them from escaping through open doors, lunging at windows, or eating inappropriate materials, which all can occur as a manifestation of anxiety.
2. Fatigue your pet for better behavior: Participate in appropriate exercise with your pet in the hours leading up to a 4th of July event. An adequately fatigued pet has a greater physiologic need to seek rest during your celebration and is less likely to exhibit anxious behaviors.
3. Promote a calm energetic state through natural products or medications: Give your pet a dose of a safe, over the counter, stress relieving product, such as Rescue Remedy Pet, 1-2 hours before a potentially distressing event. If Rescue Remedy doesn’t provide sufficient calming, ask your veterinarian to prescribe an appropriate sedative or anxiety relieving medication. Acepromazine is a commonly used animal sedative, yet it does not have anxiolytic (anxiety relieving) properties. Alprazolam (Xanax) is an anxiolytic and mild sedative.
4. Be cautious with festive pet adornments: Like Halloween, 4th of July holiday costumes are not necessarily accepted by all pets. Never force your pet to wear a costume if they resist your attempts at playing dress up. Even if your pet readily accepts decoration, don’t leave them unobserved, as fabrics can uncomfortably constrict tissue, get caught in body parts (i.e the mouth or legs), or be ingested upon your pet’s attempted removal.
5. Avoid dietary indiscretion: Summertime gatherings lend to the preparation of festive foods on which people feel compelled to gorge themselves as a representation of their American pride. Unfortunately, our pets are similarly minded and will readily dive into a plate of celebratory foods. Permitting your pet to partake in holiday appetizers, main courses, or desserts can alter your pet’s normal feeding patterns and cause digestive imbalances.
Additionally, keep all trash completely inaccessible your pet’s snooping snout. Potentially life threatening illness can ensue should your pet engage in some holiday dietary indiscretion.
Dr. Mahaney graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and is also a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. He lives and practices in Los Angeles, California, and works closely with local rescue organizations. He also writes for Los Angeles Pet Care Examiner column.