July 4 is a day for fireworks, for celebrating freedom and–more than any other day–for taking pets to the emergency room. In fact, the number of ER patients visiting BluePearl specialty and emergency hospitals on July 4 is 40 percent higher than an average day. That’s according to data compiled from BluePearl hospitals in six states and the District of Columbia during 2017-2018.*
To us, fireworks signal independence, but to pets, these sounds bring fear and disorientation—leading them to do almost anything to get away, even jumping through glass windows, running into traffic, or scaling tall fences. As you can imagine, this often leads to life threatening injuries for the pet.
Dr. Sonja Olson, a senior clinician in emergency medicine at BluePearl, said that other than fireworks, there are a number of reasons for the uptick in visits, including sweltering heat, eating the wrong things, and travel mishaps. “Everything that happens in the summer, we see on the Fourth of July — and then you add fireworks into the mix,” Olson said.
Most BluePearl specialty and emergency pet hospitals, which are located in 24 states, will stay open all day and night on July 4.
Here are some tips to keep pets safe on the busiest day of the year for animal emergencies:
Keep a close watch on your pets anytime you hear fireworks and consider putting your pets in an enclosed safe space. If you know your pet is sensitive to loud noises, have a discussion with your veterinarian about calming routines as well as medications for a more holistic approach.
Heat stroke is just as real pets as it is for humans. Dogs have trouble cooling down on hot days because they do not sweat like humans. Dogs can sometimes die from heat stroke after less than an hour of outdoor activity. Limit time outside on hot days and always make sure you provide pets with shade, water, and a way to get back inside.
If your pets are with you outdoors, make sure you supervise them, just as you would a child. It’s easy for pets to get lost, run into streets, or get bitten by a critter. Sticks and branches on the ground can also cause choking and severe mouth injuries to dogs. Instead, opt for a tennis ball or Frisbee. Also remember, concrete or blacktop surfaces become painfully hot and can reach well over 100°F, leading to severe paw pad burns. If your dog swims a lot, their paw pads are at a greater risk of burning as water softens paw pads, making them more prone to burning or cracking.
Many foods that are safe and healthy for humans will make pets sick. Foods that can sicken dogs include: avocados, apple seeds, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, onions, potatoes, grapes, tomatoes, chocolate and sugar-free gum containing xylitol.
Remember, what’s fun for you may not be so safe for your pet, so consider leaving pets at home during parades, music venues, and other events where heat, crowds, and hot asphalt can lead to trouble.
* The numbers were compiled from BluePearl hospitals in Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Washington D.C. during 2017-2018.