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Top 5 Dog Safety Tips for the Fourth of July

Are you prepared for a fun and pet-safe 4th of July?  I recently teamed with i Love Dogs and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to share my top holiday safety tips.  This article originally appeared as: Top 5 Dog Safety Tips for the Fourth of July

One of the least-loved holidays as far as dogs are concerned is likely the Fourth of July. Those rockets bursting in air really scare the living daylights out of many pooches. At this time of year, shelters fill up with dogs that have bolted from their homes (that is, the dogs that were lucky enough not to be hit by cars as they frantically ran off).

“The loud fireworks and large gatherings of people at public Fourth of July festivities can be stressful for your pets,” said Inga Fricke, director of sheltering and pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), in a press release. “It’s best to enjoy the Independence Day holiday by ensuring that your furry friends are safe at home.”

Here are tips from the HSUS and i Love Dogs’ Ask a Vet, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, for ensuring your dog has a safe and sane Independence Day.

1. Keep your dog active during the day on July Fourth so he’s tired that night.

“An adequately fatigued pet has a greater physiologic need to seek rest during your celebration, and is less likely to exhibit anxious behaviors,” Dr. Mahaney says.

If it’s hot outdoors, here are some fun indoor activities that should effectively tucker out your pooch.

2. Create a stress-free environment for your dog.

Keep your dog indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Be sure to remove any items that your dog could destroy or that would be harmful if chewed. Provide a water bowl, since stressed dogs tend to pant and become thirsty. “Put on your pet’s favorite television program (Animal Planet, anyone?) or play music to mask firework sounds,” Dr. Mahaney advises.

You can give your dog one of these common herbs or an over-the-counter product that will help alleviate his fear and anxiety. If your dog needs something stronger, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. However, strong sedatives provide little anti-anxiety relief. Your dog will still hear the loud noises, but he won’t be able to escape or engage in “coping” behavior, which could make him even more distressed in the future.

3. Don’t bring your dog to a fireworks display, or leave him in the car while you watch the fireworks.

“There are many family and group activities that are perfect for pets, but a public fireworks display or any other type of gathering where fireworks will be set off usually isn’t one of them,” the HSUS notes.

Don’t leave your dog in the car on the Fourth of July (or any other day, for that matter). Along with stress from the loud noise, your dog could suffer serious health effects, and possibly die, due to the summer heat.

“Even when the temperature outside is a balmy 72 degrees, the temperature inside your car can rocket to a fatal 116 degrees in less than an hour’s time,” the HSUS says.

Don’t think you’re helping by leaving the windows partially opened. It won’t provide sufficient air, but it can provide an opportunity for someone to steal your dog.

4. Don’t leave your dog alone in the yard on July Fourth or the days leading up to it.

Dogs that normally wouldn’t leave the yard may panic, escape and become lost. And don’t chain your dog, either – he could become entangled in it, causing injury or death.

Be sure your dog is microchipped and wearing an ID tag just in case he does manage to escape.

5. Keep Fourth of July decorations and foods out of your dog’s reach.

Don’t force your dog to dress up like Uncle Sam, or let him wear glow jewelry. “Even if your pet readily accepts decoration, don’t leave them unobserved, as fabrics can uncomfortably constrict tissue, get caught in body parts (i.e., the mouth or legs), or be ingested if your pet tries to remove the costume using its mouth,” Dr. Mahaney warns.

If you’re having a barbecue, keep the matches and lighter fluid away from your dog. Be aware that many common foods, including chocolate, onions and grapes, can be toxic for dogs.

“Letting your pet partake in holiday appetizers, main courses or desserts can alter your pet’s normal feeding patterns and cause digestive imbalances,” Dr. Mahaney notes. “Additionally, keep all trash completely inaccessible from your pet’s snooping snout. There is potential for your dog to contract a life-threatening illness should your pet engage in some holiday dietary indiscretion.”

Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).

Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2013) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

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