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Happy Fourth of July. Here’s How to Stay Safe, Party Animals

Celebrate your freedom, prevent your pet’s.

by Samantha Gurrie
June 28, 2021
Mango Street Lab / Stocksy

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With the Fourth of July right around the corner, freedom feels a bit sweeter this year. And though you may still be nursing an epic Pride party hangover, there’s another reason to celebrate just a few sleeps away. The cooler is brimming with White Claw, a #Taymerica-style red, white, and blue bikini is in the bag, and you even fashioned your dog with patriotic bandana…

As stoked as you are for your party animal to be your plus one, most pets would agree that fireworks are not their idea of a good time — they’re downright scary to some. Also, there’s this: animal control services report a 30% increase in lost pets between July 4th and 6th, only 14% of which are reunited with their owners. Yikes is right. Pyrotechnics trigger anxiety in many pets (and people for that matter), causing them to flee from the sound. And BBQs have their fair share of risks: dogs can ingest things from toxic food and drinks to bug repellant and lighter fluid, or get burned begging at the grill. Don’t go canceling your holiday plans — get prepared so you can celebrate while your pet sits this one out. Follow these five tips that will help calm your pet:

1. Let them hide out in their happy place

Unless your Fourth of July plans involve hanging out with intimate friends with a fenced-in backyard, leaving your pets at home will be less stressful for them and you. Dogs who fear loud sounds, especially those with a phobia of thunderstorms, should stay put. Be sure to lock doors and secure windows so there aren’t any escape routes, lower blinds to block the flashing lights, and turn on some chill music for calming white noise. Give them plenty of exercise earlier in the day — firework displays ramp up after dark, not to mention the crowds that come out to watch them. It will also be easier for them (again, and you) to relax when you leave them if they’re good and tired.

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2. Bust out your anti-anxiety tool kit

Noise phobias aren’t as common in cats, but they’re pros at hiding when frightened. If your dog gets spooked easily, give them a safe hideaway for them in a crate or quiet room. Chewing is a soothing mechanism for dogs so leave them with a safe chew toy, peanut butter-stuffed Kong, or other interactive dog puzzle toy to help distract and de-stress. A Thundershirt is designed to apply gentle, constant pressure to keep noise-sensitive dogs calm. If they need something stronger, talk to your vet about prescribing anti-anxiety medication to sedate them until the morning.

3. Update your pet’s ID tag and microchip info

If you do bring your pet to the party, keep their leash attached to your waist so you can hold your beer. But first, double-check that your contact info on both their ID tag and microchip is up to date just in case they slip their collar when someone drops a hot dog. Sure, microchips feel a little Brave New World, but 52% of microchipped dogs and 38% of microchipped cats that wind up in shelters find their way home, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

4. Don’t fall for puppy dog eyes at the grill

With 300 million scent receptors (compared to our six million), that BBQ chicken smells even more mouthwatering to your dog. But chicken bones, corn cobs, and other leftovers can cause obstructions in their gut, often requiring surgical removal. Other foods and drinks like chocolate, avocado, and alcohol can be toxic to dogs. Save the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center number just in case.

5. Keep an eye out for other toxins

Simply inhaling lighter fluid fumes can cause aspiration pneumonia, but seemingly less noxious products can make your pet just as ill — especially if your dog is a licker. Ingesting sunscreen can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy; bug spray containing DEET can lead to neurological issues; and citronella oil from candles can depress the central nervous system, resulting in decreased heart rate, coma, or death. Finally, fireworks can not only severely burn an animal, but many also contain toxic ingredients like arsenic and other heavy metals.

Okay, that’s enough scary stuff for one pregame. Now that you’ve got a plan, go celebrate and bring your pet back a doggie bag of stuff they can eat.

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Samantha Gurrie

Samantha Gurrie

Samantha Gurrie is The Wildest’s editorial director. She was previously the senior editor at NYLON magazine, co-publisher of Four&Sons, and director at Puerto Rican dog rescue The Sato Project. She lives in L.A. with her husband and rescue Pit Bull mix Midnight.