Summer is here and you are checking off items for your annual Fourth of July BBQ: hot dogs, sunblock, firecrackers, bottle rockets, watermelon, and maybe taking in a local patriotic fireworks display. To help your dog also enjoy this special summer holiday, though, you need to do things a little differently. In a nutshell: no fireworks, no treats from the grill, and keep the noise down! Check out our simple tips below to ensure your favorite canine has a healthy, happy Independence Day this year.
First off, did you know that, according to the ASPCA, about 1 in 5 (!) dogs go missing in the days after the Fourth of July? Which leads to the next question: is your dog tagged or microchipped? Make sure your pet has proper ID, which at the very least includes 1) your contact info, 2) your dog’s ID, 3) rabies tag and 4) city/county registration tag.
If you are unsure about microchipping your dog, consider that a microchipped pet is 21 times more likely to be returned than one without. Also, every April look out for pet stores to honor National ID Your Pet Week! They offer free and low-cost ID opportunities, including microchips, tattooing and a variety of ID options.
Now, some bad news: as much as you want to, DO NOT take your dog to watch fireworks with you. Please. Leave him at home, inside, not even in the back yard. Fireworks are overwhelming to dogs and can cause them to act out from anxiety. Do the following American Kennel Club-approved steps to help ensure a comfortable, calm space for your pet while you and the family take in the yearly patriotic pyrotechnics:
- Place your dog in his favorite room
- Lower blinds and use blackout shades to reduce bright lights from outside
- Turn on the TV, play some calm music and operate a small fan for appropriate ambient noise to help drown out some of the outdoor sounds
- If your dog is crate-trained, place him inside a couple of hours before any fireworks are set off. For added comfort, cover the crate with a blanket.
Another tip: depending on your neighborhood, unused fireworks may go off for days afterward. Don’t let your guard down just yet! In our fun, but busy, urban area, it’s not unusual (and annoying) to hear fireworks well past the Fourth. Ah, life in the big city. One thing to consider here, if you utilize any type of underground pet fence, like those offered by Pet Stop, be sure to be weary of the settings during the fireworks. You don’t want your fur babe running off and hurting itself.
Next tip: keep your dog’s diet the same as every day. The foods we enjoy every summer can be harmful and even toxic to a pet. You know not to give him chocolate, but did you also know that avocados, grapes, raisins, citrus and coconut can land your furbaby at the vet? Even the xylitol in sugar-free gum and candy is highly toxic to your pet. Hold the guac and the truffles, please. Also, resist the urge to give your pup scraps from the grill. Dogs, and especially older dogs, have trouble tolerating even minor changes in their diets.
Other potential hazards to watch out for include matches, citronella candles, and the popular “glow “jewelry that kids love to wear after dark. Dogs can easily swallow matches left lying around from lighting the grill, and chew on candles left out on picnic tables. Glow jewelry and glow sticks contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate, which, due to its intense flavor, can cause some discomfort, such as excess drooling and, in rare cases, vomiting. It’s best to provide plenty of water in case of ingestion, and to be safe, wash any dibutyl phthalate off your dog’s body. Go into a darkened bathroom to easily locate the spilled glow liquid on his fur, and rinse it off in the tub.
Here is a blueprint of how to help your special dog have a great Fourth of July ALL day long!
- In the morning, take your dog on an extra-long walk, and spend quality time running around at the park.
- Come home and feed him a typical, satisfying breakfast of his favorite dog food.
- Early in the afternoon, let him play nicely with other dogs, friendly guests and children, all the while watching out for any well-meaning-but-sneaky guests who may pass him something from the BBQ. Not everyone knows that some “treats” are just not good for our canine companions!
- Not much later than this, bring your dog inside. Close all blinds and curtains, and turn on the TV to your usual channel, or a favorite radio station. Switch on a fan for an extra layer of ambient noise.
- If it is your usual routine, place your dog in his crate with a favorite toy now, a little earlier than normal, and cover it with a blanket.
Congratulations! This is the year your dog will thank you for letting him enjoy the Fourth of July his way, away from all the lights and noise, safely in his home, for one special night.