Last July SPCA Florida received 60 lost/found pet reports, the majority of which came on July 4th and 5th. Fourth of July is a wonderful time for families to reflect, celebrate and enjoy summer festivities, but it can be one of the most frightening times for pets. Loud noises and flashing lights can cause excessive fear in even the most calm, mild mannered pet. This fear can result in nervous behaviors such as trembling, whimpering, and panting. A distressed animal’s natural response to flee from what he or she interprets as a threatening situation may result in serious injury. Some dogs are so frightened by fireworks they may run through a glass window or escape from the yard and run the risk of being hit by a car.
Frightened pets need security, but what makes them feel secure varies by pet. SPCA Florida’s McClurg Animal Medical Center Director Boyd Harrell, DVM strongly discourages owners from closing anxious pets in a room or cage where they don’t normally spend time.
“This only adds to the anxiety and insecurity. Provide your animal with a familiar place that offers some degree of ‘hiding’,” said Dr. Harrell.
In anxious situations, pets want to blend into the surroundings and disappear. Dr. Harrell indicated most pets prefer to have their owners at their side or at least nearby. Familiar background noises such as radio, TV or music can reduce the loudness of fireworks or lessen the startle of the thunder cracking. Owners are also encouraged to remain calm and speak to pets in a calm manner as owners’ excitement or fear may increase the anxiety. SPCA Florida strongly discourages owners from taking their pets to a fireworks display even if the event is “dog-friendly.” Plan ahead and ensure your pet is in a safe, familiar environment with fresh water, favorite toys and background noise to muffle the loud booms.
For extreme cases of noise anxiety, owners should seek a consultation from a veterinarian and explore the use of anti-anxiety medication.
“If those medications are used as an aid, they should not be used as a total solution,” said Dr. Harrell.
Owners need to be mindful of a severe storm rolling in or anticipate early amateur fireworks, as anti-anxiety medications, which take between 30 to 60 minutes to work, are most effective when given before the before the trigger begins rather than at the first sign of distress.
Beyond anxiety from fireworks, pet owners need to be aware of other dangers common during Fourth of July celebrations such as treats from the grill, which can irritate pets’ digestive system or alcohol consumption, which can be toxic for pets. Owners are also encouraged to keep lighter fluid and insect repellent such as citronella candles away from animals.
Additional Summer Safety Tips
Summer brings family vacations, poolside BBQs and other fun activities, but in Florida it can also mean scorching temperatures and an array of dangers for your pets. Here is a top five list to ensure your pet stays cool and safe this summer.
1. Stay Cool
While most dogs are eager to exercise and play in the sun, limit the amount they get and keep them inside during extreme heat spells. If you and your pet will be spending time in the sun, be mindful of heat exhaustion warning signs such as constant panting or trouble breathing, increased heart or respiratory rate, drooling, weakness, bloody diarrhea or vomiting. Older or overweight pets should be kept indoors, and in air-conditioning if possible.
2. Stay Hydrated
Florida’s triple digit degrees can cause pets to become dehydrated fast. Always ensure your pets have fresh, clean water and a comfy spot out of the sunshine. If you are planning a walk with your dog, bring along some water and take a break to hydrate.
Even with the windows down, temperatures in a parked car can reach into the hundreds within minutes, which can be fatal for animals.
4. Stay Afloat
Not all dogs know how to swim, so always supervise pets in pools or bodies of water. Dogs left unattended can slurp up pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that can upset their stomachs. It’s also a good idea to bathe dogs after their refreshing dip to remove residual chlorine or salt, which can irritate the animal’s skin.
5. Stay Healthy
It’s tempting to treat your pet to a bite off the BBQ grill or a sip of your cold beer, but variations in diet, especially in older pets can cause intestinal irritation and alcoholic beverages can be toxic. Also make certain items like citronella candles and insect repellent are kept away from areas where your pet might ingest them. Unless it is made specifically for pets, do not use any insect repellent or sunscreen on your animals as they have been found to cause an array of side effects ranging from vomiting to neurological damage.