Safely Celebrating the 4th of July With Your Pets

A note from Co-Founder and Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. George Melillo

While I love summer, outdoor barbecues, and celebrating our country’s birth, the Fourth of July is definitely not my dog, Pancho’s, favorite holiday. The sole reason—Fireworks!  Most of the year, Pancho is fearless and will take on any form of wildlife or even the biggest dog (embarrassingly making him unable to pass the Heart + Paw Play assessment).  However, Independence Day celebrations have him glued to my side (the only time he prefers me over my wife) and in terror.  Pancho is not alone and there are many other pets who are very frightened by fireworks and thunderstorms.  The sudden loud noise triggers a “fight or flight” response in many dogs. We plan accordingly, being sure he is indoors and with a safe spot that he feels most secure (for us Pancho it is a ground floor closet with a bed and blankets for him to hide). We make sure that Pancho is walked several times before dark so he can stay in once the festivities begin. 

Many pets impulsively will run in fear, so it is important to make sure your pet is indoors during the fireworks and has an ID, is microchipped, and has more than one number to call if the pet escapes and is found. We also make sure the windows and doors are closed to minimize any sound (the one day I actually don’t mind the AC being on). We also use a “white noise” background such as TV, electric fan, rainfall sounds app to help distract Pancho. So far, we have managed to keep Pancho safe and comfortable for 11 Fourths of July, but many dogs benefit from medications to help reduce the anxiety associated with sudden loud noises.  If you feel this is the case for your pet, your veterinarian can walk you through the best and safest options.  Be sure to consult them days before the holiday or you may not be able to have it in time. 

Aside from the noise of fireworks, the danger of stepping on a hot “sparkler”, getting overheated, or ingesting a bit too much people’s food (beware the corn cob) are other hazards associated with the holiday. With awareness and proper planning, your pet can get through the Fourth happy and healthy. For Pancho and me it is our one best snuggle night of the year, which has become our little tradition.