The Fourth of July is meant to be a day of fun in the sun with family and friends, whether they have two legs or four. Dogs are social creatures, and they often enjoy hanging out during parties, urging party-goers to throw them the frisbee, and checking to see if any plates need cleaning. While Independence Day is a cause for celebration, it is also a day that presents several dangers to our furry family members. 

Everyone (doesn’t) love a parade

Fourth of July parades are as American as apple pie, and who doesn’t love the sound of the big bass drum as the high school band marches by? Your dog—that’s who—because parades are full of strangers, loud noises, and strange sights. 

A parade can scare a dog, and when dogs are scared, they do one of two things: fight or flight. 

  • Fight — Fear can make even the gentlest of dogs react aggressively. If a dog feels backed into a corner, he may defend himself by growling and biting.
  • Flight — A scared dog will look for a safe place, and if he manages to slip his lead, there’s no telling where he will end up.

If you take your dog to the parade, you’ll also need to look out for candy and prizes thrown from parade floats. While these trinkets are fun for two-legged kids, they can prove dangerous to dogs.

The heat is on

If you plan to spend time outdoors with your dog this Fourth of July, be aware of the threat of heatstroke. Humans regulate their body temperature by sweating, but our four-legged friends can only cool themselves by panting, and they have trouble keeping cool in hot, humid weather. Pay close attention to obese or geriatric dogs, as well as brachycephalic breeds, such as English bulldogs and pugs, who find it especially hard to regulate their body temperature.

A dog’s normal rectal temperature is 100 to 102.5 degrees, but dogs with heatstroke will have temperatures of 106 degrees and higher, which can result in widespread inflammation, blood clotting disorders, and multiple organ failure. 

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Agitation
  • Extreme panting
  • Increased salivation
  • Disorientation
  • Collapse
  • Dark red gums
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Seizures

Avoid the threat of heatstroke by ensuring your pet always has access to plenty of fresh water and shade. Heatstroke is life-threatening, and you must seek veterinary care right away if your dog shows signs of heatstroke. 

Skip the show

Fireworks can frighten young children, who don’t understand what they are. The same holds true for pets. Your dog knows only that he’s in the presence of bright lights and loud explosions, and he’s scared. 

Pets can be desensitized to noise phobias, but when your pet hears fireworks and thunder, the only thing he wants is to find safety. As with the parade, he will instinctively fight or take flight. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), escaping from loud noise accounts for almost 20% of all lost pets. 

A fireworks display is no place for a dog and he should be left at home, preferably in a safe, confined space like his crate, or a secure room. Before you head out to the grand finale, ensure that all the doors and windows are secured so your dog will stay safely indoors.

Losing a pet is horrifying and heartbreaking, but you can control the outcome beforehand. Fit your pet with a sturdy collar and identification tag that includes your contact information that can be read clearly—it will be useless if the writing has been scratched off over time. 

If your dog slips out of her collar, she’ll leave your contact information behind, as well. Consider a microchip, a permanent form of identification that your pet can never lose. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, only 1.8% of cats who enter shelters are reunited with their owners, while cats with microchips are returned to owners almost 39% of the time. About 22% of dogs who enter the shelter without a microchip never see their owners again, but 52% of microchipped dogs are reunited. Remember that even a microchip is no use if your contact information is not kept up-to-date.

If your pets don’t have microchips, call our hospital to schedule an appointment. 

Your pet’s health is important to us, and we want you and your pet to enjoy America’s birthday safely. It’s best to leave your pet in the safety of his own home on the Fourth of July, but if you must have your four-legged friend in tow, be vigilant. Keep your pet on a leash and an eye on his behavior, and call the hospital immediately if you think your pet is suffering from heatstroke.