Your cookout menu is planned, the red, white, and blue decorations are ready, and you know exactly where you will watch the neighborhood fireworks display. You are all set for July Fourth. But, what about your pet? Independence Day celebrations can upset and endanger your four-legged friend. Our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team offers tips that will keep your pet safe during the patriotic festivities.

#1: Ensure your pet has proper identification

The days surrounding July Fourth are some of the busiest times for animal shelters, because many scared pets run away from crowds and fireworks noise and find themselves lost. You have a much better chance of being reunited if your pet wears proper identification. Recommendations include:

  • Microchipping your pet — A microchip, which cannot be lost or removed, is the best form of identification. This simple procedure involves implanting a small chip in the skin at the back of your pet’s neck. Once the chip is in place, all you need to do is keep your contact information updated in the company’s registry to ensure you can be notified if your pet is located.
  • Tagging your pet — Your pet should also wear a collar and identification tags with your current contact information. Ensure the tags are legible and securely attached to your pet’s collar.

#2: Keep your pet inside

Keep your pet inside to prevent them from running away. Tips include:

  • Create a safe area — Designate a room or area, such as your pet’s crate, where your pet can escape if they feel scared or overwhelmed. Ensure they have all the necessary resources and distractions, such as treats inside a food puzzle toy. You can also play music or white noise to help mask outside noise. If your pet is prone to anxiety issues, they can be confined in this area during the July Fourth celebration.
  • Post warnings — If you are hosting a gathering, post notifications for yourself and your guests to remind everyone to watch for your pet when you are entering and exiting the house.
  • Secure doors and windows — Ensure all doors and windows are securely closed to prevent your pet from escaping.

#3: Protect your pet from the heat

July Fourth is typically extremely hot and humid, which are dangerous conditions for pets, who don’t sweat like humans and must rely on less efficient means, such as panting, to cool themselves. During July Fourth’s extreme heat, your pet may not be able to effectively cool themselves, resulting in heatstroke, a potentially life-threatening condition. Tips to protect your pet from the summer heat include:

  • Hydrate your pet — Ensure your pet always has access to clean fresh water. On outings or when traveling with your pet, bring bottled water and a portable water bowl, so you can easily offer them a drink. 
  • Find shade — Take frequent shade breaks to let your pet cool down.
  • Restrict your pet’s activity — Pets can get excited, especially when around crowds and excited children. They may not realize they need a break. Don’t let them run around in the heat for long periods. 
  • Let them enjoy the air conditioning — If the day is particularly hot, or you have an at-risk pet (e.g., a brachycephalic breed, senior pet, overweight pet, or a pet who has a medical condition), leave your pet at home enjoying the air conditioned comfort.
  • Monitor your pet — Monitor your pet for heatstroke signs, which include excessive panting or drooling, lethargy, diarrhea, and collapse.
  • Never leave your pet in the car — Pets should never be left in an unattended vehicle. Temperatures reach dangerous levels quickly, putting your pet at risk. Parking in a shady area or leaving the window cracked isn’t enough to maintain safe temperatures.

#4: Ensure your pet doesn’t eat the party food

Any sudden change in your pet’s diet can cause gastrointestinal (GI) issues, and the fatty foods commonly served at a July Fourth celebration can trigger pancreatitis. In addition, foods such as alcohol, chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and xylitol-containing baked goods, are toxic to pets. Tips to protect your pet from the party food include:

  • Keep your pet on a leash — Keep your pet leashed, so you know where they are and what they are doing at all times.
  • Tell your guests — Notify your guests that your pet isn’t allowed party food.
  • Keep your garbage contained — Put your garbage in sealed containers to prevent dumpster diving,
  • Collect discarded plates — Collect discarded plates and cups as soon as possible to ensure your pet doesn’t take a taste.
  • Feed your pet — Before the party, feed your pet, so they aren’t hungry.
  • Provide pet friendly options — Provide pet-friendly treats, so your pet has their own choices while your guests are enjoying party fare.

#5: Address your pet’s noise aversion

Many pets are frightened or stressed by fireworks. If your pet has a noise aversion to fireworks, they can suffer with panic-level feelings that can lead to serious issues, such as emotional trauma, physical injuries, and health complications. Take steps to address your pet’s noise aversion before July Fourth. Tips include:

  • Modify their environment — Place them in a windowless room and mask the noise with music.
  • Use wearable devices — Sound-canceling headphones and close-fitted vests help some noise-averse pets.
  • Modify their behavior — Techniques can desensitize your pet to noises, such as fireworks, and help them form positive associations with the sound. This process takes several weeks or months, and should be started well before the July Fourth holiday. Steps include:
    • Play a fireworks sound track at a level that doesn’t trigger your pet.
    • Play the track while feeding your pet or playing a favorite game.
    • Gradually increase the volume at every session.
    • Decrease the volume if your pet responds anxiously and try a smaller incremental increase at the next session.
  • Medicate your pet — Some pets require supplements or medications to help manage their noise aversion to fireworks. 

If your pet is noise-averse to fireworks, contact our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team, so we can determine if a supplement or medication can help you and your pet better enjoy July Fourth.