Fireworks in the sky, meat on the grill, and water at your feet make July Fourth the epitome of American summer celebrations. But, do your plans for fun, sun, and festivities consider your pet?

July Fourth can be exceptionally dangerous for pets. Many exciting traditional festivities can unintentionally put pets in harm’s way. And, because we’re busy making memories, we may not notice our pets are in distress until the situation is an emergency. Knowing the most common July Fourth risks can help you make special arrangements for your pet. Have a safe and happy holiday celebration with these tips from Premier Pet Hospital.

Fireworks safety and pets

Pets don’t understand fireworks. All they know is the sudden and loud—sometimes house-rattling—noise and flashes of light. And, as soon as they’ve settled down, the booming, popping, and cracking fireworks tear across the night sky. These unpredictable, faceless threats can send pets into a tailspin to seek shelter or attention, or to escape.

Noise aversion in pets is an anxiety condition that they express with an intense reaction to loud sounds (e.g., fireworks, thunder, heavy machinery, smoke alarms). While some pets appear only mildly upset, others suffer from distress similar to a human panic attack. Noise aversion signs include:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Barking
  • House soiling
  • Pacing
  • Hiding 
  • Destructive behavior 
  • Attempting to escape

If your pet is sound-sensitive, plan ahead—talk to our Premier Pet Hospital veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication, calming supplements, or sedatives to reduce their stress on and around July Fourth. Confine your pet to a safe space, such as an interior room, during the fireworks, and provide a bed, familiar toys, their litter box, a long-lasting treat, and some white noise to drown the outside sounds. 

Never take your pet to a fireworks display, or let them outside during the display—every year countless pets go missing during noisy events after slipping their leash and collar, or escaping from their yard. Ensure your pet wears current identification (i.e., collar or harness and tags) at all times. For the most peace of mind, have your pet microchipped at Premier Pet Hospital and register the microchip as soon as possible. 

Food hazards and pets

Fireworks may look like constellations, but to many party-goers, July Fourth food is the real star. Pets would certainly agree—but your summer smorgasbord of rich, salty, and sweet foods can leave pets in misery, or the emergency room. Keep these festive favorites out of pets’ reach:

  • Meat — Your pet may gravitate toward the grill, but you must resist those sad, pleading eyes. Greasy, fatty, or seasoned meat can trigger intense gastrointestinal issues and pancreatitis. Bones can result in choking, lacerations, or dangerous blockages. Raw or undercooked meat—which they may snag off the counter or grill—can harbor salmonella, E.coli, and other bacteria. 
  • Corn cobs — Corn cobs are the perfect size to become trapped in your pet’s digestive tract and require surgical removal. Shuck a few kernels for your pup, but take all corn cobs to the trash.
  • Onions — This burger topper can damage your pet’s red blood cells and cause anemia.
  • Alcohol — Alcoholic drinks can be intoxicating to pets, causing severely low blood sugar, body temperature, and respiratory rate.
  • Ice cream — Dairy products can cause acute digestive upset in some dogs and cats. Additionally, some ice cream ingredients such as chocolate, nuts, and raisins are harmful or toxic to pets.  
  • Nuts — While only macadamia nuts are toxic, all nuts are high in fat and can trigger pancreatitis, a painful and dangerous condition that requires hospitalization.
  • Chocolate — Chocolate contains stimulant ingredients that affect your pet’s heart and nervous system. Typically, darker and bitter chocolates are the most dangerous.
  • Sugar-free desserts — Many sugar-free foods contain xylitol, a natural sugar substitute that causes life-threatening low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.

With all the exciting sights and smells that surround July Fourth, don’t expect your pet to remember their manners—keep trash cans tightly closed and out of reach, ideally behind a barrier such as a door or a gate.

If your pet eats something hazardous, don’t wait until signs appear. Contact Premier Pet Hospital or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for after-hours guidance from a veterinary toxicologist. 

Heat safety for pets

Never underestimate the power of warm weather—especially for pets. Dogs and cats sweat only through their paw pads, and must rely on alternative methods—including panting—to stay cool. Unfortunately, these measures aren’t always enough. When a pet can no longer regulate their body temperature, they experience heatstroke—a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate action.

Prevent heatstroke by keeping your pet indoors on hot days, and restricting exercise to cooler hours (i.e., dawn and dusk). If your pet must be outside, ensure they have continuous access to cool water and shade. Never leave your pet in a parked car for any length of time. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, on a 70-degree day, a car’s interior temperature can climb 20 degrees in only 10 minutes.

Monitor your pet for heat stress and remove them to a cooler area if you witness early signs, including:

  • Excessive panting
  • High heart rate
  • Restlessness

Unattended heat stress can progress to heatstroke, with worsening signs that include:

  • Vomiting
  • Discolored gums and tongue
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

If your pet shows heatstroke signs, immediately remove them to an air conditioned area, wet them down with cool—not cold—water, and contact Premier Pet Hospital or the nearest veterinary emergency facility

While you celebrate your freedom this July Fourth, remember that your pet depends on you for their safety. Be attentive to their needs, comfort level, and health—and take preventive actions. If your pet is afraid of fireworks and you’d like to know if anti-anxiety medication is an option, do not hesitate to contact the AAHA-accredited Premier Pet Hospital team.