The Fourth of July is a spectacular holiday, but for pets, it can be spectacularly scary. Loud noises, crowds, and neighborhood barbecues all pose a threat to our four-legged family members on America’s birthday. To ensure your pets are still safe and sound on July fifth, be aware of the top five ways to keep your pet safe on the Fourth.

1. Heatstroke in pets is no joke

Heatstroke occurs when the external temperature is so hot that your pet cannot adequately control her body temperature. Pets suffering from heatstroke can present at the hospital with rectal temperatures of 106 degrees and higher.

Normally, dogs dissipate heat the following four ways:

  • Conduction — Lying on a cool surface
  • Convection — Heat loss by air flow, such as wind
  • Radiation — The release of body heat into the atmosphere
  • Evaporation — Panting

Dogs rely most heavily on evaporation and conduction to keep cool, so they can usually avoid heatstroke if they have access to plenty of shade and water.

If you consider the four ways that dogs dissipate heat, you can understand why a car is so dangerous for dogs on hot days. There are no cool surfaces on which to lie and no air blowing by. While panting furiously to try to keep cool, dogs radiate their body heat back into the car. Cars can become deadly for pets in a matter of minutes, so leave your dog at home if your trip will involve leaving her alone in the car.

2. Fetching fireworks

Fireworks may be awe-inspiring for you and your two-legged family members, but your four-legged friends would beg to differ. They don’t understand the noises and sights of fireworks exploding and that uncertainty is terrifying. Fireworks activate your pet’s fight-or-flight response, and even the most well-behaved dog may bolt to find safety.

Even if your pet is cool with the sights and sounds of fireworks, she may still be in danger. Many dogs, especially retriever breeds, cannot resist chasing anything that is thrown, including fireworks. Obviously, this is a problem when fireworks are lit, but even spent fireworks are  toxic. If you must bring your pet with you, ensure she knows the “leave it” command, and keep a close eye on her when she is exposed to fireworks.

3. Cookouts can be a calamity for dogs

Flipping burgers on the grill is a popular American past-time, and Independence Day is no exception. If you are having family and friends over for a barbecue, set some ground rules about your pets. Ensure your guests know not to feed your pets table scraps. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats can cause gastrointestinal distress in your dog, while fatty foods can trigger a life-threatening episode of pancreatitis, or pancreatic inflammation.

Dogs also run the risk of intestinal obstruction during summer gatherings. Notorious Fourth of July obstructions include corn cobs, which large dogs can swallow whole, peach pits, which can cause obstructions in smaller dogs, and shish kebab sticks, which have been known to perforate the stomach or intestines, causing deadly peritonitis.

4. Pets can feel the burn

The summer sun should have you reaching for your sunscreen before you head outdoors. If your pet spends a lot of time in the sun, she’ll be at risk for sunburn, too. Pay close attention to pets outside, especially those with light-colored fur or thin hair coats.

White cats are particularly prone to a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, which presents as tumors on the ear tips of cats who spend a significant amount of time in the sun.

If your pet is a sun worshipper, give us a call for our pet-safe sunscreen recommendations.

5. Lost and found

To avoid a Fourth of July fiasco, leave your pet safely at home during the festivities. Ensure she has a safe place to hide once the sun goes down, and just in case, ensure she has proper identification on her tag to make it easier for her to be returned home if she gets lost.  

However, identification tags only work if they are still attached to your lost pet’s collar and the collar is still around your lost pet’s neck. Sadly, by the time many pets are found by a caring good Samaritan, the collar and tags are long lost, making your pet a Jane or John Dog.

Therefore, consider microchipping your pet. A microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted under your pet’s skin, making it a permanent identification. Area veterinary hospitals and shelters have scanners that will reveal your pet’s unique microchip number, which will be associated with your contact information. We recommend all pets be microchipped to provide permanent identification, but even microchips are only effective if your contact information is current, so don’t forget to update any changes.

We want your pets to be as happy and healthy on July fifth as they were on the Fourth. Give us a call if you have questions about keeping your pet safe during the stressful holiday.