The Fourth of July and its accompanying celebrations can be a traumatic experience for pets. A little preparation can go a long way toward making sure that they are safe and happy when the festivities begin.
Eliza Mazzaferro, MS, DVM, PhD, DACBECC, director of emergency services at Wheat Ridge Veterinary Specialists in Colorado, says the Fourth of July is a busy time because of the inherent risks the holiday poses to pets. The most common culprit: fireworks.
“Pets get anxious and break out of kennels, jump through windows and get lacerations, and when loose, can get hit by cars,” Mazzaferro says. “We have also seen where people toss a firework or firecracker into the air, and the dog jumps up, swallows it, and the firecrackers cause severe damage to the internal organs.”
Obviously pet owners should prevent their dogs from swallowing firecrackers, but even the noise can injure their stomachs; in large breed dogs, Mazzaferro has seen an increased incidence of bloat or GDV (gastric dilation and volvulus), where the stomach twists. This occurs when dogs are nervous or excited, which happens during firework anxiety.
You can tell if the noise is affecting your pet if they tremble, bark, howl, try to hide, or get so anxious that they attempt to break free from their enclosures. In these cases, Mazzaferro recommends staying with them to help calm them down, rather than leaving them home alone. It’s a good idea to keep them inside, making sure that they don’t chew anything in their excited state.
“Moving things that can be destroyed or are harmful is beneficial,” Mazzaferro says. “However, in very anxious pets, I have seen them bite through a metal cage and injure their teeth and gums, and also jump through plate glass windows. They try to escape the noise, not knowing that it is outside. I have seen dogs chew through doors and dry wall, so just keeping them confined to a room or a dog crate is not always foolproof to prevent injury.”
In such extreme cases, it may be wise to have a prescription for anti-anxiety medication from your veterinarian. Testing the medication before the holiday is a good idea to ensure that it has the appropriate effect.
In case your pet does run away, it is important to be sure their collar has a tag with the current phone number on it. Mazzaferro suggests that all pets be microchipped, and that the contact information it contains is current as well.
“Too frequently, we see pets brought in by Good Samaritans having been found injured, and we attempt to contact the owner with the information provided by the microchip company, and find that the numbers are not current or have been disconnected, and we cannot reunite the pet with their owner,” she says.
Other problems for pets that occur around the Fourth of July include pets getting wounded during fights at backyard barbecues with other animals, or eating table scraps like corn cobs, ribs, hot dogs or shish kabobs that can cause gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea) or even pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Cats can get an obstruction in the stomach or intestines that can be life threatening without surgery. To keep pets safe, partygoers should not put their plates or drinks on the ground where pets can reach them.
Barbecues can also attract bees and wasps. Allergic reactions to insect stings can cause swelling of the face, hives, itchiness, vomiting, diarrhea, and in the worst case scenarios, respiratory distress and collapse. If a pet shows any of these signs, they need to go to the nearest veterinary hospital for treatment.
Finally, summer heat can create health issues. Mazzaferro stresses that pets should never be left in a car under any circumstances to avoid heat stroke. She also suggests walking or exercising pets during the coolest part of the day, with plenty of shade, and access to water every 20 minutes to avoid heart exertion. If your pet is tired, collapses, or starts making increased breathing sounds, stop the activity, have your pet rest in the shade with cool water, and have them evaluated by a veterinarian.
By taking these precautions, you’ll ensure that both you and your pet enjoy a happy Fourth of July!
This article was written by Jen Reeder for the AAHA Healthy Pet website
Imagine you are a dog or cat: It is a slightly cloudy but warm day, you are covered in fur, your body is not made to perspire well, you especially overheat in high humidity and you tend to be active and excited in the car.
Then a loved one leaves you alone in the car stating, “I’ll be right back!” Minutes pass and the car begins to get hot. You pant harder and harder, but all the air you are taking in is hot. Your body temperature starts to rise. You begin to panic…
The main methods of counteracting overheating that the dog and cat body can utilize are panting (but the air being taken in must be cool), drinking cold water, immersion in cool water or being wet down with cool water to allow evaporation, and being in circulating air that is cool. Pets, due to their poor ability to cool themselves, are in danger of overheating if left in a car even for a few minutes. Death or permanent organ dysfunction from overheating can occur in a matter of minutes! Please note that even if you leave the air-conditioner in your car running, computers in many cars today will shut the system off or cause it to blow hot air fairly quickly.
PETS IN THE MOST DANGER ARE THOSE:
- left alone in a car (minutes can mean heatstroke)
- isolated in one area of a car that is not as cool as the “people” area
- trying to keep up with an owner who is jogging or hiking
- who are overweight (40% of American pets are obese)
- who have a short-face such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, Pekingese, etc.
- who are older or very young (less physical ability to cope)
- who have thick coats
- who are excited or ones that just exercised or overexerted
- with any disease
SYMPTOMS or SIGNS:
- frantic panting in a dog and any panting in a cat
- dilated eyes
- weakness, staggering, non-responsive, vomiting &/or diarrhea
- red gums
- body temperature above 103 degrees may mean your pet is overheating
If you suspect that your pet is overheated, and he or she is losing consciousness, you must act quickly. Begin to gently cool your pet even without confirming a high body temperature:
- wet the pet down or use a tub of cool (not cold) water
- provide cool drinking water if the pet is able to drink
- stop aggressive cooling of the pet when rectal temperature drops to 103 to 104 degrees F.
- have pet examined by a veterinarian ASAP
- NEVER leave any pet unattended in a car or isolate them to a warmer area of your car while you are driving
- with any summer activity, remember pets overheat easily and don’t know when to stop or pace themselves
- an inexpensive thermometer in your pet’s first aid box is valuable
- keep fresh cool water available at all times
At Animal Hospital of North Asheville, we see heartbreaking cases of heatstroke that could have been prevented had the pet’s family just realized how easy heatstroke can occur in dogs and cats. Our own Drs. Dave and Betsy Thompson experienced a terrifying heatstroke in their dog, Ding, while she was riding in their van with them on a spring day. Ding had chosen (she was not restrained) to ride towards the back of their 1975 panel van which did not have a rear air conditioner, when she suddenly got up, came forward to them, and collapsed as she lost consciousness. Due to immediate treatment, thank goodness, Ding survived, but the incident brings home just how vulnerable our pets are. Please be very careful with your pet this summer! Always remember that they have less ability to cool themselves than you do.