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Pet-friendly Fourth of July Tips

Original Publication Date: June 29, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Plans to celebrate a festive Fourth of July may include a barbecue with family and friends, a trip to the beach, or an outing to watch community fireworks. These enjoyable affairs usually involve a large number of people, lots of food, and noisy fireworks.

All are pleasurable people activities that can terrify a pet.

More pets go missing between July 4 and 6 than any other time of year. The American Humane Association reports that July 5 is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. Pets panic at the noise of firecrackers, flee, and the number of missing dogs, cats and birds increases by 30 percent.

Many pets are never returned to their owners because of inadequate identification. The number of pet parents who use identifying tags and microchips for dogs is increasing, but many pups are permanently separated from their families. On average, only 14 percent of lost pets are returned to their owners.

Sadly only 2 percent of cats are reunited with their people, primarily because most lack proper identification information.

A few simple precautions can help you and your pet safely navigate the noisy holiday. The most important tip is to leave your pet at home, and keep him indoors at all times. Even dogs that normally stay in a fenced area should be kept inside.

Normally calm dogs have been known to scale tall fences when startled by loud noises from community fireworks or neighborhood kids throwing firecrackers. Use a leash to take your dog on occasional walks to relieve himself.

Your pet will appreciate the comfort and safety of a quiet room or crate. Add a bit of tranquility by closing the windows. Turn on the TV and play some soothing background music to diminish racket from the outside.

You may prefer to have your pet mingle with guests if your party is inside, not too noisy, and the area is escape proof. Keep your pet on his normal diet. Any change, even for a single meal, can cause severe indigestion and diarrhea. Caution guests not to share tidbits from the human feast even if your dog gives them his best tail wag.

Remember that many foods like onions, chocolate, coffee, avocados, grapes, raisins, salt and yeast dough are potentially toxic to pets. Alcoholic beverages should not be left unattended as they too can be toxic if your furry friend laps them up.

Fireworks, food, family, friends, and a party atmosphere are terrific for people, but they are not fun for pets. The noise of fireworks can be terrifying, people food and drink can be toxic, and too many family and friends can be unsettling and scary.

Don't let your pet go missing during the noisy Fourth of July holiday. Keep him inside. He can safely go outside and play after the human celebrations are complete.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at