Well it has finally come to that time of summer. The kids are out of school, the pools are open and the air is filled with the smell of sizzling barbeque. Right around the corner is one of my favorite holidays: Independence Day!
However, just as you and I may look forward to this holiday and the parades, fireworks, family get-togethers and festivities that accompany it, there are members of our families which view this day and all its activities with horror--our pets! Consequently, I would like to talk about a few things to keep in mind so that both you and the furrier members of your family have a safe and happy holiday.
Personally my inner pyromaniac can’t get enough of these noisy and colorful displays, but my dog, Beasley, has other thoughts entirely. Firework anxiety is one of the most common causes of stress we see around this time of year and can cause the most mild tempered dog to become frantic and inconsolable, or even the most obedient to ignore everything you say. If I know my dog has anxiety from loud noises (I’m looking at you, Kansas thunderstorms) then he or she will be completely miserable during the week or two surrounding the 4th where those neighbors down the street declare their freedom with constant loud pops and fountains of sparks.
To prepare for this, first of all make sure that your pets have current identification at all times. Rabies tags, ID tags and microchips are all great ideas for that one pet who tries to run down the street to escape the noise. These forms of identification can turn a tragedy into merely an inconvenience.
As well, to help your pet cope with the stress of the noise and the excitement, I like keeping them kenneled in a dark room (which can act like a security blanket) As well, things like thundershirts or anti-anxiety medications can go a long way in making this holiday a lot more tolerable for both you and your pets.
Barbecue and picnics abound this time of year. The 4th is a time for good food and lots of it! However, there are some common foods which you and I might love, but are dangerous for our pets. Things like grapes (and raisins), avocados, onions, chocolate and macadamia nuts are all harmful to our pets. As well, food items that contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can also be toxic. If you think your pet has swallowed any of these items, please call your veterinarian for further advice.
While you and I might be rocking the shorts and flip flops during this time of year, our pets are stuck with their thick fur coats year round. Therefore during these long hot days, special consideration should always be made to reduce the risk of overheating or even heatstroke! Thick coated dogs such as huskies and german shepherds, as well as our geriatric and young hyperactive pets have a higher risk for this. Always ensure that they have access to plenty of fresh water and a place out of the sun. Some signs that your dog might be overheated is constant panting, excessive salivation, muscle trembling and difficulty breathing. If you notice these signs, move your your pet somewhere cool, give them some water and call your veterinarian.
Finally, watch for hot pavement! In the summer sun, concrete or asphalt can easily reach temperatures hot enough to severely burn your dog’s feet. Allowing your dog to walk on the grass or skirting around big parking lots during walks will help your dog avoid blistering their toes.
If you keep these things in mind when planning your holiday festivities this year, then hopefully your only worries this year will be finding room for all the awesome food, and getting a good spot to watch fireworks!
Wishing you and your pets a safe and happy Independence Day,
John Neeck, DVM
Veterinarian at Mill Creek Animal Hospital