By Marlena Lopez & Dr. James Greenwood On the 4th of July, many Americans will be celebrating the anniversary of the nation’s birth with a party or perhaps a day at the beach followed by a festive display of fireworks at night. While the 4th of July is one of the largest holidays in the USA, the 5th of July of is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. According to the humane society, “animals that fled in fright the night before are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted.”
On 4th of July, when it comes to your pets, remember P.A.T.S.!
The holiday is marked by an abundance of food, drinks, and party favors that are dangerous to your pets. Some items to keep your beloved animal companions away from are:
Onions contain a chemical called thiosulphate which is toxic to cats and dogs.
Chocolate, Grapes, Nicotine, and Alcohol are also toxic to your pets.
Bones can tear or obstruct your pet’s intestinal tract. Dispose of all bones properly; poultry bones are especially dangerous to animals.
Glow Jewelry: it may look cute to put glow jewelry on your pet, but the plastic can cause gastrointestinal obstructions (GI) and the contents can cause GI irritation.
Insect repellent: the heat and bodies of water attract mosquitoes and other insects; while you may want to use insect repellent on yourself don’t use it on your pets.
Make sure that your dog has an identification tag or registered microchip before the big day.
Leave your pet at home and indoors, shielded from loud noises.
Draw curtains/close blinds to shut out bright flashes.
Turn on the radio/tv to drown out the noises of fireworks.
If you know that loud noises scare your pet, then consider staying home to comfort them.
Some dogs can become desensitized to loud noises over time, if trained to be comfortable with the sounds of fireworks in advance. Condition training is a simple process, but it can take multiple months of playing the recorded sound of fireworks for your pet at an increasingly louder volume.
For information on pet behavioral modification, you can contact an accredited pet behaviorist to work with your pets on their fears so that they will be ready for the next Independence day.
If your dog exhibits signs of separation anxiety, such as inappropriate barking, destructive behaviour, and/or inappropriate urination or defecation, you may want to consult with your local veterinarian before the holiday to discuss medication options for your pet.
Your vet may prescribe short term medication to reduce your pet’s anxiety levels and help them ‘forget’ their fears associated with the fireworks.
Separation Anxiety in dogs may be alleviated in the long term by the use of prescription medication in conjunction with behaviour modification.
In milder cases, certain nutraceutical supplements may help alleviate stress and anxiety. Supplements containing L-Tryptophan and L-theanine,(essential amino acids that stimulate the production of serotonin) can play an important role in relaxation of animals.
Pheromone diffusers, collars and sprays can also be used for dogs and cats to help calm them in the face of stress and anxiety. The electric diffusers plug into a wall and emit dog or cat appeasing pheromones to help your pet calm down and feel comfortable. These diffusers only need to be replaced once a month with a refill packet but need to be in place for a few weeks before they start to have an effect.
Dr. James Greenwood is a small animal vet in SW England and the star of CBBC’s ‘The Pets Factor’. The Pets Factor is a TV show which follows 4 vets as they treat various animals. The documentary series is aimed at young teens to illustrate the responsibility of pet ownership in the next generation. The Pet’s Factor airs on CBBC or on BBC iPlayer.