ISVMA offers Fourth of July suggestions for pet owners

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (June 27, 2020) – In preparation for the Independence Day holiday, the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) encourages people to consider moving pets that are sensitive to loud noises to a quiet and secure area, far away from the fanfare that fireworks and party revelers enjoy during the celebration.

“If you have a cat, dog, or other companion animal or livestock easily frightened or spooked by fireworks, you need to think about their own mental and physical safety,” says Dr. Olivia Rudolphi, ISVMA President. “It’s easy to get caught up in the coordination of festivities with family and friends during the holiday, but it’s just as important to include a plan for your pets and livestock when celebrations become troublesome for them.”

Dr. Rudolphi suggests the following:

  1. Never ignite fireworks near any animal, including sparklers, fire crackers, and smoke bombs. Keep pets indoors in a recognizable environment. Consider staying at home to help them relax.
  2. Introduce your pets to calming music in a quiet room that can help mask noises from parties and fireworks displays. Have their kennel or bed nearby for comfort. Shut windows and close curtains. Also consider a compression or “thunder” shirt for a dog to help keep them calm.
  3. Consider talking with your veterinarian about medication that may help soothe an easily distraught animal during a stressful holiday celebration. You may wish to try this medication in advance to ensure the pet reacts favorably to it.
  4. Never punish pets if they are scared. This will only add to their anxiety.
  5. Keep horses and farm animals away from fireworks and keep gates and fences securely locked and maintained well in advance of the display.

Dr. Rudolphi says there are also other dangers for animals during the upcoming holiday, including:

  • Runaways – Dogs and cats, and even outdoor animals such as horses, can be spooked by the noise, flashing lights, and unpredictability of fireworks explosions. They may escape from back yards and pastures, running through open doors or jumping into weakened fences and unsecured gates. For companion animals, microchip them, make sure their ID tags are on their collars, and take photos to help you recover and claim them when found if they do escape.
  • Fireworks debris – Dogs will eat just about anything, including remnants of firework explosions that fall into your yard. Most of this debris carries heavy metals and gunpowder dust, elements that are not digestible. This concern also pertains to pasture and penned animals.
  • Poisonous food and dangerous food-related items – If you’re having a typical cookout, there are human foods that can be poisonous to pets, including chocolate for dogs. Make sure you, your family, and your friends don’t share picnic table scraps with animals. And grilling tools, such as wooden and metal skewers, can also injure pets.
  • Heat exhaustion – Pets exposed to hot outdoor weather conditions (“hotter than the Fourth of July”) without proper shade and water are at high risk of dehydration and heat stress. If traveling over the holiday, do not leave pets in hot vehicles; make sure they always have proper ventilation and fresh water.

“Just as you would consider all options for your human family for a safe and happy holiday celebration, make sure you consider the needs of your family’s pets and livestock, as well,” Dr. Rudolphi says. She also encourages people to ask their veterinarian any questions about the animals in their care in order to ensure they, too, get through this holiday as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

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