Celebrating the 4th of July with Pets

Celebrating the 4th of July with Pets

Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone is getting a chance to enjoy sunshine and celebrations. If you are working today, THANK YOU! Having been on-call the last two 4th of July’s, I truly appreciate and respect everyone who is out there saving a life or keeping us safe or simply providing a service so the world can keep operating through the holidays.

The 4th of July is my favorite summer holiday. I grew up spending the weekend/associated week at my family’s cabin. On the 4th itself, we would drive the pontoon down the lake and watch the fireworks in a crowd of other boats. For a small town, Cumberland, WI has a nice fireworks show. As a child, I took for granted that our dog – a lovely yellow Labrador named Kitsa – would join us for the boating and the show. She would lay quietly on the deck of the boat or sometimes snuggle up on the seats if it got cold while the fireworks burst through the air.

Fast-forward to today, when I now work as a veterinarian, and I can now tell you that the above scenario is an exception and not the norm. Many dogs are not comfortable with the loud noises and burst of fire in the sky. My current dog, Glia, thinks that fireworks must be monitored at all times. The crack pop noise incites raised hackles,  a rush to the window and a low growl +/- alarm barks. Although Glia is definitely stressed, her reaction is mild compared to some dogs. As a result, it is important to make sure that you plan ahead prior to celebrating the 4th of July with pets. Follow the below tips to keep your holiday as festive as possible.

  1. Make sure that your dog or cat has a safe, secure place to enjoy or endure the 4th of July festivities. Don’t plan on bringing your pet with to fireworks displays and large crowds unless you know that they are okay with it. (And don’t forget the subtle signs of stress – lip licking, yawning, etc. Check out this dog body language poster made by Dr. Sophia Yin for further examples).
  2. Consider walking your dog earlier in the day to avoid the bigger fireworks displays.
  3. Make sure both dogs and cats are wearing ID tags and are microchipped. That way, if a loud firecracker startles them and they do get out of their secure space, they have a better chance of making it back home.
  4. If you know that your dog or cat has significant phobias, please talk with your veterinarian in advance (don’t call on the 4th!). There are several medications that can help reduce anxiety in pets, but many of them should be tried ahead of time.  You can also try products like a DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) collar or a Thundershirt for milder anxiety. Sometimes even Benedryl can provide a mild sedative effect (but talk to your veterinarian about dosing).
  5. As with any holiday, monitor pets to ensure they aren’t getting into any of the extra food that is sure to be present. While some indiscriminate eating may not cause anything worse than a little upset stomach, there can be serious health risks when dogs get into holiday foods. From pancreatitis induced by fatty foods to foreign bodies from eating skewers or corn on the cob to toxicities when dogs eat grapes or sugar free gum.
  6. Additionally, on the 4th of July many people incorporate water activities (on lakes or rivers) into the festivities. Please also keep in mind good water safety tips. While most cats won’t be included in boating activities, many dogs love the water. For dogs that love the water, make sure that they do not exhaust themselves from over swimming. On the flip side, not all dogs are comfortable swimming. Consider a life jacket to keep these dogs safe. Life jackets can even be a good idea on strong swimmers in areas with strong currents or in case of a boating accident.

Overall, just be mindful and plan ahead. I hope everyone (both two and four-legged) enjoys the festivities and comes back to their day to day life recharged and refreshed.

For more suggestions on 4th of July pet safety, check out this list from the AVMA (which is also where I found the nice image for this blog article).


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