Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
July 4th means a lot of different things to many people, but what it typically boils down to is BBQs with friends and fireworks. For us, this means delicious food, people we enjoy spending time with and beautiful fireworks. For our pets, it means delicious food that they need to sneak, tons of loud people and then very loud booms that are sort of like the world imploding on them.
That may have been a little dramatic, but for many pets July 4th weekend holds many chances for danger. More pets are lost on the 4th of July than any other date. Animals’ hearing is so sensitive that they can become frightened and disoriented very quickly when fireworks are exploding overhead. Indoor/outdoor cats should be left in the safety of their home and locked in. Even dogs that aren’t sound-phobic shouldn’t be brought to fireworks displays. Home fireworks, town fireworks — they are all loud and can be scary. Even situations we think are “safe” can still turn into a situation with lost dogs. Many dogs develop noise phobias as they get older, so just because your dog was fine last year doesn’t guarantee they will be this year.
When pets run away, normally, they are often chasing an animal or scent. This makes it more likely that they can follow their trail home again. When pets bolt away out of fear, they often become disoriented and have difficulty finding their way home. Traffic increases greatly during these holiday events (you may have noticed when trying to leave them), so traffic danger increases as well.
So you have decided to stay home with your pets and cook out. You skewer meat on sharp little kebobs and leave them just a little too close to the edge of the counter. Trying to be sneaky, your dog wolfs down two of them. Whole. You may laugh, but trust me when I say that meat skewers often get swallowed and always require a vet call.
The good news is that the 4th of July can be celebrated relatively worry free with a few simple precautions. Keep all food out of reach of pets, especially meats, fatty foods, any bones or anything on a skewer! Let guests know that feeding the pets is off limits. Even if every person sneaks only a tiny tidbit it may add up to enough to cause problems. If you have an especially good beggar or small children who let parts of their meal drop, go ahead and close pets in another room during times when the food is out.
Always keep your pets contained. If you will be having a lot of visitors, make sure that your pet is somewhere without access to frequently opening doors. If you know your dog gets nervous with loud noises, keep them in a part of the house without doors or windows for fireworks. If they are crate-trained, put them in a crate with a blanket over the top and music playing. If your dog is very afraid of thunder or gunshots, they will likely be afraid of fireworks; consider speaking to your vet about medication. There are many herbal medications that help anxiety, as well as stronger medications for tougher cases. If you are using a medication, it is important to do a test run. Dogs react differently to all medications, so they should not be given a dose and then left alone the first time. There are many solutions for noise phobias that can help your pet deal with the fireworks on the 4th, as well as the 1st through 10th as often happens. Remember that celebrating America’s freedom shouldn’t be the same as your pet gaining their freedom. Take a few precautions each day of the holiday weekend to ensure everyone has a safe and stress-free holiday.