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4th of July Survival Tips for Pet Parents

This month, Beasley Best’s Community of Caring is focusing on pet appreciation. Our latest feature is a timely one: how to keep your pets safe and happy on July 4th. Whether you’re planning your own Independence Day celebration or joining a few thousand fellow citizens at a community festival, it’s important to keep your pets feeling safe and secure.

It starts before the first rocket!

According to the ASPCA, more pets go missing over the Fourth of July holiday than any other time of the year. Check your windows and screens, your doors and any pet flaps and make sure they are securely closed in case somebody panics and tries to bolt. Make sure microchips and ID tags are up-to-date with your current address and phone number in case they do make an escape. It’s always smart to have a current “mug shot,” too, for posters or to upload to your local pet sites and your neighborhood social media.

Want advice from the professionals? The American Veterinary Medical Association has a wealth of materials for pet owners, including holiday safety tips!

For indoor dogs and cats, you should create a safe haven with their favorite bedding, a piece of your worn clothing and some of their most-loved toys.  

Plan to keep large outdoor animals, horses, goats, llamas and alpacas, securely penned in their stalls, stable or barn. Outdoor pens and rabbit hutches should be covered.  

Wear out dogs and cats before the show!  Take an extra long walk, do a little roughhousing with a favorite toy, or bring out the laser pointer. A tired pet is a calmer pet.  If that’s not enough to get through the night, there are a lot of stress-reducing products available, pheromone diffusers and sprays, swaddling wraps, even herbal remedies that can help calm them.  For extreme reactions, consult your vet for a sedative or tranquilizer.  

Planning on attending a community event? Leave your pet at home. There’s too great a risk of them becoming frightened and running away. The crowds, the smells, the sounds and the lights can terrify even the most adventurous and social dogs and even a pup that enjoyed the activity one year may now be traumatized by the experience.

And of course, don’t leave them alone in the car while you celebrate with no place to hide and nobody to comfort them.

Celebrating at home? The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that some dogs, and cats, too, actually enjoy sparklers, bottle rockets, glow sticks or low explosives. Keep them leashed or locked in the house so they don’t try to grab or jump on a lit firework. After your party, carefully police the ground for burnt sparklers and other debris that could be ingested or stepped on. Remember, even if you didn’t set off fireworks, debris can make its way into your yard. Your two-legged housemates will thank you, too!

Once the fireworks begin, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, suggests following your dog or cat’s cue and let him or her “hide” in a favorite room or under a desk, or in that “safe space.” Play music or leave the TV on to help drown out the noise, but remember, your dog’s – or cat’s – hearing is so acute they will still hear the hiss and explosions.

How you comfort your pet during the fireworks can make a big difference. Be with them, next to their safe space or close by, and offer petting and scratching if they want it.   Avoid excessive cuddling, that can just reinforce their fears.  PennVet recommends playing with your pet instead of simply stroking it.   Playing a game with your pet when he starts to show signs of anxiety can distract him from the noise and lights and teach him to associate that same trigger with positives such as play and treats. 

Finally, avoid the fireworks completely.  Take a road trip, even if just for a few hours.  Crank up radio and the air conditioner, your pet may even sleep through the displays.    If the holiday is just as stressful to you and your family, why not escape to the mountains?  Plan your holiday over the 4th, find a pet-friendly hotel or campground and get away from it all!  Due to the risk of wildfires, fireworks are banned in forest communities.