Since 1777, Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks. This big, colorful, and loud tradition can be fun and for a lot of people, especially for some kids, it’s an exciting and magical experience. But for our pets? Well, fireworks do a lot more harm than good. The truth is that many pet owners absolutely dread the Fourth of July holiday. For a variety of reasons, fireworks + pets = big trouble. We’ll launch into the top three dangers in 3…2…1…BOOM!
Reason #3: Burns
Play with fire and someone will get burned. Unfortunately, our curious pets are often the victims while their humans are distracted. This may be obvious, but when pets get too close to lit explosives, they can be seriously injured. Many pets experience burns to the face, inside the mouth, and on their paws, as well as eye irritation from the smoke. If you choose to do any activities that involve fireworks or anything that involves fire, do not let your pets join. Instead, keep them safely inside.
Reason #2: Toxic Ingredients
Fireworks contain hazardous chemicals and heavy metals that are toxic to pets. Symptoms vary if your pet eats any part of a firework, whether used or unused, and can include vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and kidney failure. If you suspect your pet ate any amount of any fireworks, seek immediate veterinary care. And if you plan to light any type of fireworks, keep your pets inside and thoroughly clean up the area before letting your pets back outside.
Reason #1: Noise Anxiety
The most common danger of fireworks is neither burns nor toxicities. It’s how our pets react! As humans, we know what those loud noises and bright flashes are. To our pets though, fireworks can be terrifying! More pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year because they get scared and flee – whether they‘re at a fireworks display, in the backyard, or inside a house and break out (this happens more often than you may think!)
If your pet has noise anxiety, here are a few tips for a *fingers crossed* less stressful Fourth of July:
- If there is a municipal fireworks display near your home, know when it’s happening so you can be prepared.
- Make sure your pet has updated ID tags and a microchip. It’s important to register the microchip and ensure your contact information is up-to-date. If you haven’t done this yet, now is the time! We strongly encourage all pet parents to have pets wear a collar and ID tags.
- Take your dog for a walk or potty breaks earlier in the evening before the fireworks begin. Avoid letting any pets go outside during fireworks. If your dog absolutely must go outside, keep them on a leash and be as quick as possible. You may want to use canine-specific headphones (“Mutt Muffs”) to reduce the noise while outside. Just don’t go out during the grand finale!
- Whether your city or neighbors are setting off fireworks, it’s important to have a “safe haven” set up for your pet to quickly go to. This room should make your pet feel comfortable and secure. Include your pet’s favorite toys, blankets, and anything else your pet may need. Often, this will include you or another family member!
- In the safe haven, use background noise to drown out the fireworks or other loud noises. Use a white noise machine, TV, or radio. Again, canine headphones may also help.
- Provide treats and distractions for your pet! A few examples include a KONG, enrichment activities and puzzles, or a special treat. This is also a great time to work on training skills!
- Invest in a Thundershirt, which is a vest that applies gentle and constant pressure. This is often very soothing for our pets!
- If possible, we highly recommend staying home with your pet or having someone pet sit while you are away. This is the best way to ensure your pet is safe!
- Talk to your family veterinarian about pheromones, supplements, and prescription medications. Your family veterinarian can help determine the best options and proper dosages for your pet. DO NOT give any human medications to your pet – many human medications are toxic to pets and can be very dangerous – even fatal.
Learn more information about how to help your pet with noise anxiety here.
Public Service Announcement
It’s not just pets who are bothered by the crash, bang, and boom of fireworks. People with noise sensitivities, trauma survivors, and even wildlife can find the loud noises and flashes of light very distressing. We invite you to consider extinguishing personal fireworks from your holiday plans.
If fireworks are essential to your enjoyment of the holiday, consider using a friend or family member’s more remote location or warn neighbors beforehand.
Please remember that, in Minnesota, only sparklers, cones and tubes that emit sparks, and items like snakes and party poppers are legal. Cherry bombs, firecrackers, and other fireworks that fly or explode are illegal. Learn more about Minnesota’s fireworks laws here.
We hope you and your pets have a safe Fourth of July! Remember, the best way to keep our pets safe is to keep them inside and away from fireworks. If your pet does go missing after being startled by fireworks (or for any other reason), click here for a few tips and resources to help you find your pet. If your pet is injured by fireworks or you believe a pet ate any part of a firework, seek immediate veterinary care. Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s Oakdale facility is open 24/7 for emergencies, and our St. Paul facility is open 8 AM – 8 PM.
Find more Fourth of July pet safety tips here!