The 4th of July can be a lot of fun for you and your family – including your pets – but certain aspects of the holiday can put your pets under stress. The dangers of the holiday include over-exuberant guests, dehydration and sunburn (highs in the L.A. area may hit the 90s), overly rich food, toxic items such as matches and lighter fluid, and the noise from fireworks.
Here are six tips to ensure that you and your pets have a happy and safe holiday.
1. Make sure your pet is comfortable with the level of attention he or she is getting from your guests. Children, in particular, can overwhelm a shy pet. Bear in mind that many animals don’t like to be hugged or held by strangers, so keep an eye out and be prepared to step in and protect your pet if necessary.
2. Give your pet lots of water, especially if you are spending time outdoors. Most animals get dehydrated much faster than humans. Also watch for signs of overheating. Since many pets have fur all over their bodies, they aren’t able to release excess heat as effectively as we are.
3. Consider putting sunscreen on your pet. Some areas that sunburn fairly easily are the belly and ears of light-colored pets, as well as the noses of pink-nosed pets. Make sure the sunscreen you choose is non-toxic, PABA-free, and unscented, since pets have sensitive skin and may also try to lick the sunscreen off. Sunscreens formulated especially for pets are available.
4. Avoid giving your pet human food – or at least keep the human food to a minimum. Rich human foods like those at barbecues can give your pet an upset tummy, and that can put a real crimp in your 4th of July celebration. The same applies to alcoholic beverages.
5. Keep matches, lighter fluid, charcoal, and the like out of your pet’s reach. If you find your pet has eaten anything inappropriate or dangerous, consult a veterinarian immediately.
6. Many pets find the sound, vibrations, and flashes from fireworks extremely frightening. Make sure your pet is either on leash with you, in a crate, or otherwise secured when the fireworks start. If you have not been through a 4th of July holiday with your pet before, it’s best to either stay home with your pet or get a pet sitter to keep your pet company. Many a family has come home from watching fireworks to find that the pet they left home alone has somehow managed to escape and is nowhere to be found.
Here are a few things that can help make the fireworks less stressful for your pet:
i. Rescue Remedy™ is a safe, and often highly effective, herbal stress reliever for many different kinds of pets.
ii. Music designed to calm dogs (e.g. iCalmPet and Canine Lullabies) can help mask the noise of the fireworks and soothe stress.
iii. Calming Collars can help calm both dogs and cats.
iv. Thundershirts™ and Anxiety Wraps are quite helpful for some noise-phobic dogs (some people find simply putting a tight t-shirt on their dog works, too).
v. DAP (Dog Appeasement Pheromone) also has a calming effect on some dogs.
vi. Melatonin can also reduce the stress of dogs who suffer from noise phobia.
Your veterinarian can also prescribe medication for pets who suffer from extreme anxiety during fireworks.
One final note: Feel free to comfort your pet if he or she seems distressed during the fireworks. Contrary to popular belief, this does not make the fear worse, and it has the potential to make your pet feel better.
Special thanks to Nan Arthur, San Diego Pet Behavior and Training Examiner, who introduced me to Calming Collars.