Celebrating July 4 with your pet

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This Wednesday, most people will spend the day outside celebrating Independence Day watching fireworks with their family and friends.  Often, people bring their dogs to enjoy the day’s festivities.  There are a few things to know if you plan to spend July 4 outside with your pets.
Dr. Melanie Bolling, veterinarian for the Small Animal Hospital at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said the most common problem associated with July 4 is dogs’ sensitivity to the noise from the fireworks.
“A lot of dogs are noise phobic, whether it’s fireworks or other loud noises such as guns, cars backfiring, and thunderstorms.  These noises are scary and if you didn’t know what it was, you might be concerned about your safety, too,” Bolling said.
Bolling said the best idea is to keep dogs, particularly those with noise phobias, away from the commotion.  If that is not an option, Bolling suggested using “anxiety wraps” or “thunder shirts,” a compression garment for dogs to wear that makes them feel secure.  Bolling also recommended discussing appropriate anxiety-relieving medications with your veterinarian.
Another factor that can cause anxiety and stress in dogs is large crowds of unusual people.  If you know ahead of time that your dog does not do well with large groups of people, Bolling suggested leaving the pet at home or boarding them.  If you are going to bring them, she suggested having a calm area for the dog.
“It’s a good idea to give your dog a quiet place where they can get away from all the crowds of people if they are just not that into it,” Bolling said.
Bringing pets to these crowded areas usually means contact with other pets, some of which could be unvaccinated.  Bolling said it is important to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date if bringing them with you.
“If you are going to be in a place where unvaccinated dogs might have walked, such as soccer fields, baseball fields, or parks, you want to make sure your dogs are up-to-date on vaccinations.  I wouldn’t take an unvaccinated puppy or a puppy that hasn’t completed the whole vaccine series to any of those places because they could pick up nasty little diseases along the way,” she said.
In addition to vaccinations, parasites can pose a threat to your dog’s health. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, which tend to be out around July 4. While other parasites like fleas and ticks are spread through contact with contaminated soil or other  infected animals, so make sure pets are on heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives before heading out.
The heat is another issue to consider.  If your dog is going to spend the day outside with you, Bolling stressed the importance of bringing enough water.
“You need to bring enough water to last the whole day and then extra, especially if the dog is going to be active and running around.  They are going to be panting and losing water just through evaporative loss, so they are going to need to replenish that,” she said.
In addition to water, you should bring dog food because it is best to avoid giving your dog people food.
“Everybody wants to give their dogs a little snack so if it is something your dog is used to getting, all things in moderation, but try to avoid the temptation to feed them people food in excess,” she said.
It is a good idea to avoid giving your pet a lot of people food because then your dog may become sick.  Bolling explained that on July 5 and 6 the hospital cares for a lot of dogs sick to their stomachs from eating too much people food.
“You want to stay away from any meat that might have bones in it, from raw meat, and bad actors such as raisins, grapes, chocolate, chewing gums, things of that nature,” Bolling said.
Angela G. Clendenin works for Pet Talk, a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.