surviving the 4th of July with pets
Black and White headshot of IndeVets Employee Megan
Words by:
Megan Kelley — Assistant Marketing Manager

The Fourth of July is quickly approaching! This means fireworks, barbecues, and summer weather.

While many of us look forward to this time of year, it can be rightfully scary for pet owners and pets. This article will outline the dangers that come with July 4th and will provide some useful tips and information to share with pet parents, so that everyone can enjoy their summer celebrations safely. 

Tip #1: Prepare for noise phobia 

Extravagant firework displays are exciting and amazing to us, but they can be terrifying for many dogs. In fact, 40% of dogs suffer from noise phobia and even the smallest firework shows (and summer thunderstorms!) can cause them intense stress and anxiety.

In order to keep dogs calm and relaxed during these times, we highly recommend that pet owners speak with their veterinarians in June to be prepared ahead of time. A variety of anti-anxiety and sedative medications can be used for firework and thunderstorm anxiety, as well as some modification techniques and calming supplements that may help soothe pets.  

If your pet is a runner when scared, make sure the environment they’re in is safe and secure. We also highly recommend microchipping. This simple procedure can greatly improve your chances of getting your pets back if they run away in response to these loud noises. 

To learn more about noise phobia in dogs, listen to our IndeVets Happy Hour podcast episode here.

Want more clinical news & tips from IndeVets? Sign up here.

 Tip #2: Watch for signs of heatstroke 

With summer in full swing, we need to be extremely mindful of the summer heat and humidity that can affect our furry friends. Heatstroke is characterized by body temperatures greater than 105°F from exposure to a hot or humid environment or from strenuous physical activity. Excessive heat and high body temperatures can lead to organ failure and death if not treated quickly and appropriately. 

In order to avoid this, we recommend that pet owners become educated on the possible signs of heatstroke – high heart rate, increased salivation, collapse, respiratory distress and/or increased respiratory rate, and possibly injected (red) mucous membranes (lift your dog’s lip to look at their gum color). 

If you notice any of these signs in your dog or cat, cooling mechanisms should be initiated at home. We recommend using cool towels and fans and applying isopropyl alcohol to the paw pads and ear tips. Animals should then be taken to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. 

Veterinarians will continue external cooling methods but will also initiate intravenous fluids and run bloodwork to check for organ dysfunction. This bloodwork with the doctor’s assessment will determine the next step in treatment. 

Also, be aware of hot surfaces (pavement, asphalt and artificial grass) when taking your pets outside. Dogs and cats have sensitive paw pads that are vulnerable in the summer heat. Hot surfaces can cause blisters or burns on their paw pads and can even increase their overall body temperature, leading to heatstroke.

To avoid this, we recommend placing your hand or bare foot on the pavement for 5 seconds. If it’s too hot for your skin, then it is most likely too hot for your furry friend’s paw. If you notice your pet is uncomfortable or their paw pads change color, bring your pet inside and flush the feet with cool water before reaching out to a veterinarian.

To learn more about preventing and treating heatstroke, read Dr. Kelly Dunham’s blog here.

Further reading: Preventing & treating heatstroke

Tip #3: Watch what they eat! 

If you choose to include your pet in your annual Fourth of July barbecue, make sure you are paying attention to what they could ingest. Make sure to keep sparklers, glow sticks, fireworks, charcoal and kabob skewers away from curious pets!

We know it can be hard to say no to those puppy dog eyes but try your best to avoid feeding your pets table scraps, especially these common foods that are actually toxic to them: artificial sweetener, chocolate, onions, grapes, fried foods, macadamia nuts, and avocados. We also strongly reiterate that corn cobs often cause gastrointestinal obstruction in dogs which can lead to severe disease and usually expensive surgery. Keep an eye on your corn cobs! 

Additionally, there are many common outdoor plants to be aware of when hanging outside with your pet this summer. Some toxic plants that can cause mild to severe illness in dogs and cats include lilies, peace lilies, azaleas, rhododendrons, tulips, hydrangeas, devil’s ivy, hostas, and daffodils.

The good news is that ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) are available 24/7 and are staffed with specialists that can assist pet owners and veterinarians with appropriate treatments. Make sure to keep an eye on your pets while they sniff around the backyard garden this summer. 

For more information on plant toxicity, listen to our IndeVets Happy Hour podcast episode here.

 The IndeVets Happy Hour: A new podcast

Tip #4: Protect from fleas and ticks 

These tiny, gross parasites can affect our furry friends all year, but they are especially flourishing in the warmer summer months. The biggest piece of advice we can offer pet parents is to use flea and tick prevention year-round and be extra aware of these pests in the warmer summer months. 

Why should we be worried about fleas in the summer? With higher humidity and temperature, the flea cycle is faster, and they can produce more of themselves. Flea infestation can cause morbidity, tape worms, dermatitis, and they carry a whole host of other diseases that can even affect humans. If your pet gets fleas, not only do you have to treat your pet, but you have to treat everything in your house (including your other pets!). 

Ticks can carry a whole host of diseases that affect humans, as well. It is super important to use oral and topical medication to prevent ticks from infecting our pets. There are a variety of products on the market for preventing and treating infestation and disease from both fleas and ticks.  

Heartworm prevention is also critical to protect your pets and should be used year-round as well. Talk to your veterinarian about safe and effective products for your pets. 

To hear more about preventing and treating infestation and disease from parasites, listen to our IndeVets Happy Hour podcast episode here.

Further reading: IndeVets’ current standards for common tick-borne diseases

In summary

The best way to ensure a fun-filled, safe summer is to be prepared and be aware of the dangers that can affect our furriends during our summer festivities.

Enjoy all that your Fourth of July celebration has to offer, while keeping your pets happy and healthy! 

 Megan Kelley is Assistant Marketing Manager for IndeVets. 

Photo: Karsten Winegeart

Further reading:

Springtime tips for pet owners

Preventing and treating feline heartworm

5 tips for happily coexisting cats and houseplants

5 guidelines for seamless case transfers