Ah, the smells, sights, and sounds of summer gatherings. The wafting of burgers charring on the grill, the watermelon rinds lining driveways, the laughter of little kids splashing in the pool, and the thud of rice sacs hitting cornhole boards. For many people, nothing is better than chillaxin in the backyard on the 4th of July with good friends and family—including fur babies! Of course, we all want to incorporate the dog in our holiday get-togethers, but doing so should be approached with care and caution. Some festive foods, supplies, and activities can pose potential risks to your canine companion. Preparing your dog for the 4th of July is super important! Keep reading to find out how.
It's all about the FOOD!
The centerpiece for most parties is, you guessed it, food!! If you cook it, they will come. The humans are not the only guests who enjoy partaking in tasty goodness, and feeding Fido scraps might seem like the loving thing to do. While some of your bbq menus might be fine for pups, there are quite a few things that you should avoid offering him. Many common flavoring spices such as garlic and onion are toxic to dogs. If you feed your pup any meat, make sure it is cooked thoroughly, plainly, and free from any bones. There are fruits, such as grapes, and veggies, such as avocados, that are a “no-no.” For this reason, you should avoid keeping food, especially bowls of mixed salads, in low-lying areas that enable easy access to curious exploring noses. Bark Post offers some delicious dog-friendly bbq recipes to make sure you can fill everyone’s bellies to contentment.
As far as beverages are concerned, keep all alcohol away from canine companions. While it might seem harmless to let your dog take a tiny sip of your wine, beer, or mixed drink, it is not suitable for their overall health. Make sure to clean up any spills quickly and remove your pup from the area while doing so. You should also never allow your dog to consume sodas, sweet teas, juices, or other sugary drinks. Water is always the best choice to keep your pooch hydrated! Best of all, it’s never in short supply.
Repelling the Pests
The 4th of July comes with spending time outdoors. Unless you live somewhere magical that does not breed mosquitos, you’ll need something to keep those pesky bloodsuckers at bay! Citronella torches and candles are widely advertised as a natural mosquito repellant, but just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it is entirely safe. When used responsibly and under a watchful eye, citronella can be very effective, but it can also be toxic to pets. You may want to consider some alternatives if you’ll be distracted by party prep and firework planning!
Citronella can irritate the skin topically and upset the digestive system internally. You will want to be very careful while filling any outdoor torches with citronella oil. Contact with the liquid can cause skin infection, rashes, or chemical burns in severe cases. If your pup somehow ingests any, he may experience vomiting and diarrhea. Some dogs tend to eat anything that smells interesting or new; therefore, a citronella candle may be a tempting choice. Obviously, citronella isn’t the only concerning candle ingredient, but if ingested in large amounts, the ASPCA says that stomach irritation and possibly even neurological distress can occur.
Also, remember to use spray-on bug deterrents with caution, especially those containing DEET. Citronella and DEET oils could cause aspiration pneumonia when inhaled. Make sure to apply them away from your pets and put the bottle up high when finished. Do everything you can to prevent it, but inform your veterinarian immediately if there is suspicion your dog has ingested or come into contact with these products.
P.S. – Some dog-safe alternatives include mint, lavender, lemon, and a combo of eucalyptus plus witch hazel.
Lighting It Up
Illuminated trinkets known as glow sticks are quite popular for most 4th of July celebrations. Every store in town will be selling them, and they come in ALL sorts of shapes, sizes, and varieties! Kids and adults alike love to twirl them, toss them, and adorn themselves in them. We will admit, it IS pretty fun! However, glow sticks can pose risks for curious animals. The Pet Poison Helpline receives numerous calls each year regarding the ingestion of glow jewelry by intrigued pets.
Chewing on a glow stick can irritate a dog’s mouth, skin, and eyes as the luminescent fluid (dibutyl phthalate) leaks out. Dibutyl phthalate is also an insect repellent and is used to manufacture plastics, glues, leather, nail polish, inks, and perfumes. Immediate responses such as vomiting, gagging, or excessive salivation will be present if the liquid is swallowed. Some owners have reported further symptoms, including agitation, hyperactivity, and shivers. Though these reactions are concerning, they are likely instinctive responses to the unnaturally pungent taste and do not pose life-threatening risks. To help vanquish the harsh flavor profile, try offering canned foods, favorite treats, or tuna. Your dog might shy away from eating if they are too busy slobbering all over the place but keep trying to persuade. If you’re able to, use a very wet washcloth on the tongue to help rinse and remove any chemical coating.
It is important to note some larger glow sticks do not use dibutyl phthalate and instead contain tiny glass vials that activate different chemical compounds when snapped. Though these other chemicals are less dangerous, be aware that your pet may have ingested some glass fragments if they chewed the item aggressively. You should feed your dog bread and canned pumpkin while keeping an eye out for any traces of blood in poop or potential vomit. For extra measure, turn off the lights and check that your pup isn’t shining bright via any other body parts! If the floof is fluorescent, wash the affected areas thoroughly with soap and water. The goal is to prevent any remaining substance outside from being licked back inside! Otherwise, the phrase “glowing smile” might take on a whole new meaning.
The Grande Finale
And last, but probably biggest, is the 4th of July’s firework displays. Dogs can sense changes in barometric pressure due to their heightened senses. As a result, dogs can feel the atmospheric shifting, much like how birds in the wild fly away when storms are closing in. In the instance of a thunderstorm, dogs have a built-in “warning system.” However, when it comes to fireworks, they are often caught off guard by the sudden and unexpected booming audio. Many Service Dogs are specifically trained to handle loud environments and spontaneous situations, but most Emotional Support Animals are not. Below are 6 tips to alleviate the stress that fireworks might inflict on your pup this holiday season.
● Ensure that you provide your pup with easy access to safety and security. Put him somewhere he feels sheltered, such as a familiar crate, particular room, or enclosed space (even under the covers of your bed). Make sure your pets are secured INDOORS and as far away from the unfamiliar noise as possible. Try not to open any doors by which your dog could run outside. In times of panic, dogs may become disoriented and try to escape even if that “escape” defies logic. You should also put away any items your pup could destroy should any nervous chewing commence.
● Check ID tags and microchip info just in case your pup DOES manage to escape! Be sure that your animal can be identified by name and address. Engraved tags are inexpensive and can be a lifesaver. Microchipping your pet is a great way to help missing animals get back home. Don’t forget to register your dog’s chip once administered and update any changes to your contact information over time!
● It could be useful to tire your dog out during the day. With plenty of daytime exercises, your pup will be more inclined to sleep right through any nightlife happenings. Suppose you just so happen to have an overly spirited furry friend. In that case, you might try using a new food-dispensing toy or edible bone to occupy, distract, and redirect any nervous energies.
● Creating “calm sounds” could aid in drowning out the foreign ones. Putting on soothing music, playing recordings of your voice, or turning up the television volume are some easy examples. You can also help to minimize fears by closing the blinds/curtains. Even with this precaution, it’s a good idea to keep the indoor lights on (at least where your dog will be) so that the flash of fireworks is even less apparent.
● According to The Bark, many people swear by the power of the Thundershirt. It is a wrap-around vest your dog wears and is said to have an instant calming effect. It seems to work much as a weighted blanket does for humans. If you’d rather not spend money on a product your dog won’t use very often, you can try this DIY version! Pay attention to your dog’s cues, however, and proceed with care and caution.
● In some cases, a sedative might be warranted. With a particularly sensitive dog, it is always a good idea to plan ahead and make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss this option. Your vet might also suggest an over-the-counter herbal remedy that can offer a more homeopathic method of relaxation.
Even if you don’t live near or plan to attend any large events, small neighborhood gatherings and culdesac firework displays are still very likely to happen. Should you plan to celebrate elsewhere, it is safest to keep your dog home. Even if the party is dog-friendly, the unusual surroundings could incite uncharacteristic responses from your companion. It is best to prepare for any scenario!
Remember that remnants of store-bought fireworks may be lying around the ground days after the festivities end. Of course, it is always the hope that those responsible for them would pick them up, but that’s not always the case. So keep an eye out, and don’t let your dog gobble up any harmful leftover residue.
We would like to remind everyone to please be respectful of others during the holiday season. Celebrations can trigger mental health disabilities such as social anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse recovery, and Autism Spectrum Disorder during these times. We desire safe environments and common decency for and from every individual (human and furry) while they make memories! The 4th of July is a celebration of independence and is an excellent opportunity to honor those fighting daily for their psychological freedom. If you would like more information on assistance with an Emotional Support Animal letter or Psychiatric Service Dog registration, please don’t hesitate to reach out below.