Americans look forward to the 4th of July every year as a time of celebration and fun. The 4th of July is also a notoriously busy day at the emergency room for both people and animals. Here are a few things to be aware of to make your Independence Day celebrations safer for your pets:
Food and Drink Hazards
Perhaps the most stereotypical 4th of July ER visit is the dog who ate the corn cob. Corn cobs are notorious for getting stuck in the small intestine. Sometimes with luck and patience, a dog can pass a corn cob with supportive care alone, but they very often need surgery if they eat a whole cob. If your dog ate a corn cob, you may be able to get him to avoid a hospital stay by getting them to throw it up at home or by going to the vet to induce vomiting within a couple hours of ingestion.
Other hazards are fatty foods like meats that dogs may either be given intentionally or get their paws on unbeknownst to us. High-fat foods can cause inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, in dogs that leads to severe vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Alcoholic beverages can also be a hazard and need to be kept away from our pets. Most of our pets are much smaller than us and even what seems like a small amount of alcohol can cause poisoning in them.
Whether a burn comes from fireworks or the grill, they are not an injury to ignore in your pets. There are varying degrees of burns – first, second, and third degree. Regardless of how minor the burn appears at the time it occurred, it needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian promptly so that appropriate pain medication, ointments, and sometimes antibiotics can be prescribed. Waiting too long can allow the burn to get infected and will delay healing. Dogs can also get burns from walking on hot asphalt or sand. If it is too hot for you to walk on in bare feet, then it is too hot for them! If the ground is too hot, your dog may appear to be dancing as they lift their feet up one after the other in a frantic manner, sometimes vocalizing as they do it. Bring them to a place with grass so they can cool off. You can buy special boots for your dog if the situation is unavoidable.
Heat stroke is all too common in dogs during the summer. Most often a dog will experience heat stroke when they have been outside on a hot day exercising without a break and without water. It is even more dangerous for dogs with thick fur coats and those with breathing difficulties. You may not realize your dog has a breathing difficulty, but any short-nosed breed such as an English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, or similar type breeds inherently do a poor job at exchanging air. This is relevant because panting is the main way dogs remove their bodies of excess heat. Signs of heat stroke are excessive panting, dull mental state, collapse, and bright red or even pale gums.
In order to prevent heat stroke, do not exercise your dog in the middle of the day when it is hottest but try to do so in the morning and evening. Provide plenty of cool, fresh water. Make sure there is a spot in the shade your dog can rest if outside, or bring them inside to the air conditioning. And NEVER keep any pet in a car without making sure the air conditioning is on.
Anxiety and Noise Phobia
Many dog owners dread the 4th of July because they know how scared their dogs get. Some dogs will hide and whine during fireworks where others will be destructive. Both are ways of expressing anxiety and fear. For mild anxieties, doing things like keeping the TV or radio on to have some background noise can help. Make sure they have access to a place that they consider safe. If your dog is so fearful that they may run away, keep them contained as best you can but also make sure to have them microchipped ahead of time in case they get lost. Try your best not to coddle your fearful dog, as this only perpetuates the behavior. Remember that dogs can hear fireworks miles away that we may not be able to hear. For severe phobias, prescription medication may be required after consultation with your veterinarian.
Author: Dr. Jeffrey Haymaker