We all love celebrating the 4th of July here in South Florida. BBQ and beverages, friends and family, boats and beaches and the almost always loved signature fireworks. Just like some humans, not all cats and dogs enjoy the flashes and lights. These noisy fireworks can cause them to run away. Other dangers abound- fatty or toxic holiday foods, the danger of overheating on a hot summer day, and debris leftover from a night of partying. No matter how you celebrate, this is one of the busiest evenings at veterinary clinics across the country: lost dogs, hit by cars, found dogs, injuries, and extremely anxious pets completely freaking out. The following week is just as busy for the clinics with intestinal upset and forgein body obstructions, and reuniting pets with their owners. We want to help you prepare your pets to survive and thrive before, during, and after celebrations, so please read on and share.
Prepare your pets for the Fourth of July in advance:
And finally, microchip your pets!
We can’t stress enough how important a microchip is for your pet’s safe return home. We’ve seen so many stories that end well when one is found. If your pet does NOT have a microchip, go now and make an appointment to get one. It’s the best $40-50 dollars you can spend to ensure you did everything to get them back to you in an unfortunate event. If your pet does have one, make sure it has been registered to you and that the phone numbers and addresses are current. You can call in and make sure anytime. If you can’t remember if your pet has one or can’t remember the number, pass by your Veterinarian and we can scan it for the Chip number and give you the telephone number to call in. There is a website that you can go to to check on the number as well. http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/
Manufacturers and databases that participate in the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool:
- AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC-CAR)
- Found Animals
- HomeAgain (includes Banfield chips)
- Microchip I.D. Systems
- Save This Life
- SmartTag Microchip
Watch video: Meet Max: Why you should microchip your pet
To learn more about microchipping your poets visit: https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq
Preparing pets with high anxiety: considerations for medications on the Fourth of July
If you know your pet gets very anxious with loud noises, to the point that they may even hurt themselves, it is time to get in touch with an animal behaviorist or a trainer. If the anxiety is very bad, make sure you talk to your veterinarian about medicating if necessary. There are things the veterinarian can prescribe and if your pet has an up-to-date exam or history with your regular vet, they often give you something if you ask. They may run bloodwork to check some organ functions if you’re behind on a check-up, the medications are metabolized by the liver or kidneys.
Call the vet for the preferred treatments and give them ample time to get approval and meds prepared for pick up. A week and a half in these busy times is a must when possible. They may prescribe medications like Trazadone, Valium, or Xanax. Keep in mind, these take a while to kick in.
Proactive Exposure Training — Noise Desensitization
Now is the time to acclimate your dog to the sounds they’ll hear on the 4th of July. We want you to try noise desensitization to positively expose your pets to traditionally scary noises and make their Fourth of July more manageable. It’s very important, however, to make sure you speak to your veterinarian if your dog suffers from anxiety caused by loud noises (often referred to as noise aversion). It might be better for you to go with the medication and supplements route, as well as work with a certified dog trainer who can help you work through a desensitization and counter-conditioning plan.
Getting your dog used to fireworks
Follow the steps below from Preventive Vet to pair the sounds of fireworks with positive experiences and things — this will help your dog get used to the noise before the holiday. Try to do this as early as you can with your dog. You don’t want to start this training on July 3rd, as habituation does take time.
Getting your dog used to being crated
We know it can be tough for some pet parents to believe but- crates are wonderful safe spaces for pups. Our own dogs LOVE their crates, take their treats in there, and put themselves to bed at night on their own. Crates are important for safety purposes, especially pups who get anxious during fireworks. If your dog doesn’t like their crate, you have some time now to help train them to understand that a crate is a great thing.
Non-medical ways to help with anxiety:
- Rescue Remedy
- CBD Oil (It hasn’t been studied but some say it works wonders for their pets)
- Pheromones sprayed on towel
- Thundershirt (it’s impressive)
- Calming music
- Dog Channel on TV
Caring for your pets on the day and night of July Fourth
During the day:
Make sure your guests are on the same page as you are! Let them gently know that you have rules in place to make sure your pets and kids are safe. Make sure your pets are not getting into any food if you’re grilling from home. There are so many tempting dishes- rib bones, fatty burgers and hot dogs, corn on the cob… all of these can can cause obstructions or pancreatitis. Some common foods are toxic so keep that in mind, too. Below is a quick list of how to keep your pets safe on Independence Day:
- Keep them away from the hot grill.
- Make time to give them a long walk out of the sun, and get them exercised so they’re tired at night (you can always hire a dog walker to take them out earlier in the day if you’re busy).
- Careful with overexposure to sun and heat (know the signs of your pet overheating)
- Never leave them in a car, even with the windows cracked open.
- Keep pets at home: don’t go to parades with them, and especially don’t go to fireworks displays.
- If you have lots of guests, put them in their safe room/crate or make sure guests don’t leave doors and gates open.
- Make sure you walk them on a leash and get their energy out well before nightfall/fireworks time. Long walks, exercise, and training will burn up their energy and help most pups settle down later.
Follow these rules to make sure your pets come out of Independence Day happy and healthy.
As far as upset stomach and GI issues go, the culprit is usually your friends and the BBQ. The chef should be aware of the BBQ drip pan.
- It should be enclosed if possible in the cabinet below
- It should be high and out of reach from children and the pets
- It should be there- not dripping on the ground or rocks.
Why, you say? Glad you asked:
Pets will think that ground, soil or the pebbles/rocks are delicious! They will eat them, and the pebbles will impact the dog’s intestines and there goes the fun. You’ll have a Monday emergency vet visit because your pup won’t eat and has diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, or vomiting.
Your dogs were happy and loved the attention and the num nums. But this is what happens internally. The stomach is delighted and starts to process, then starts to overwork. The pancreas gets mad at the stomach and starts to argue, the stomach is annoyed at the pancreas and vomits in protest. The pancreas retaliates in anger and catches fire. The pain is too much for the happy dog and he wishes he never saw your friends, can’t eat without vomiting, annoying the pancreas even further and bam, the intestines pay the price of major motility. The walls of the intestines get fired up and in protest, start to burst their vessels. Get the drift? Please avoid this at all costs!
How to care for your pets while the fireworks are going off:
Treat Party for Firework Noise: Grab your treat bag with some super high value treats and keep it on you for the evening. Any time there’s a loud firework noise, praise your dog and give them a treat. You’re teaching them that the loud “scary” noise predicts something awesome happening
Potty Breaks: At some point your dog will most likely need a potty break while fireworks are going off. Make sure they are leashed and under control to prevent them from bolting if a loud noise scares them. I recommend keeping them leashed for potty breaks even if you have a fenced yard — safety first!
Quiet time: Take them to their room and give them their favorite toys and treats. We prepare Kongs with frozen peanut butter and kibble inside to give them something to do.
Medications: Give them calming chews or their medications, as indicated by your veterinarian
White Noise: Set up your calming music or their favorite TV channel.
Crate: Make sure they’re crated if need be (and if it doesn’t cause more anxiety) and don’t let anyone open their door.
Stay with them: Sometimes they just want you to be with them, and that’s ok, too. We spend our nights cuddled up with our own pets and many of our clients’ more anxious cats and pups, and we love it.
The day after the party:
- Check your yard for fireworks debris before allowing pets outside to play or relax. Even if you didn’t set off fireworks yourself, debris can make its way into your yard, where curious animals may pick it up to play with or eat.
- Check your pastures and remove debris to protect horses and livestock.
- If you hosted guests, check both your yard and home for food scraps or other debris that might be dangerous to pets, such as food skewers.
However you choose to enjoy spending time with your Best Friend, remember, they depend on you for EVERYTHING. A Microchip and the steps discussed can help your pets stay safe- that makes YOU happy I am sure!
Of course, if your pets get lost you should:
-Call Miami-Dade Animal Services first and foremost.
-Set up flyers with photos around your neighborhood
-Post your pet’s photos online on Nextdoor, many Facebook groups:
on Lost and Found sections such as this one on Craigslist.
We would love to hear from you. Please tell us your tricks to keep pets comfortable during celebrations. We will make you part of the Safety Team! If you have questions about your pets wellbeing you would like us to write about, or If you have tips you think would benefit others on water safety, please feel free to share them with us in the comments or email them to the Vet tech Division at Equipaws Pet Services – LoryN@equipawspetservices.com
A founding member of the Equipaws family, Frankie can mostly be found working behind the scenes, helping co-create online branding, managing several social media accounts, designing brand collateral, writing copy, and managing events. She also fills in for pet sitters and dog walkers when needed in Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, and South Miami. Her own small pack consists of Boots the Shih Tzu mix and Nutmeg the Chiweenie.