July 4 is busiest day at pet hospitals, so keep your dogs and cats safe

July 4 is a day for fireworks, for celebrating freedom and – more than any other time – for taking pets to the emergency room. In fact, the
number of ER patients at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospitals on July 4 is 55 percent higher than an average day.

That’s according to data compiled from BluePearl hospitals in six states and the District of Columbia during 2014-2016.*

Dr. Sonja Olson, a senior clinician in emergency medicine for BluePearl, said there are a number of reasons for the uptick in visits, including sweltering heat, eating the wrong things, travel mishaps and more. It all seems to reach a pinnacle on Independence Day.

“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 pet hospitals, which are in 21 states, will stay open all day and night as usual on July 4. But the entire staff hopes your pets remain happy and problem-free.  That’s why BluePearl experts have prepared this advice on how to keep pets safe on the busiest day of the year for animal emergencies.


If you’re setting off fireworks, keep them far away from your pets. That much is clear. But here is some more fireworks advice that might be less obvious:

  • Keep a close watch on your pets anytime you hear fireworks blasting. Some dogs get so alarmed they dart out the door in a misguided, frantic attempt to get away from the noise. “We see animals who were scared or startled and that’s what gets them into trouble – they got hit by cars, or stepped on, or ran into something like a hot grill,” Olson said.
  • If you already know your pet hates fireworks, go to your primary care veterinarian in advance for recommendations on calming medicines. Some are perfect for the July 4 racket.
  • Consider putting your pets in an enclosed safe space during the fireworks. It’s even better if a helpful human is with them. This could be you or a pet-sitter.

Heat stroke

While fireworks get most of the attention on Independence Day, the danger from heat stroke is just as real. Dogs have trouble cooling down on hot days because they don’t sweat as humans do. Dogs can sometimes die from heat stroke after less than an hour of outdoor activity. So limit time outside on hot days and always make sure you provide pets with shade, water and a way to get back inside.

Outdoor activities

Outdoor activities make July 4 celebrations fun. But if your pets are with you, make sure you supervise them, just as you would small children. It’s all too easy for pets to get lost, or fall in a pool, or run into the street. Also, consider leaving pets at home during parades and other events where heat, crowds and hot asphalt can lead to trouble.


It’s wonderful to see plenty of food spread across a serving table, and pets think it’s wonderful when some of that food falls to the floor. But many foods that are safe and healthy for humans will make pets sick. For example, onions, avocado, chocolate and several other foods  can sicken dogs. Don’t give pets too many treats they are not accustomed to. And if you want to give your dog a bone, it’s best to ask your primary veterinarian in advance which bones are appropriate for your dog.

* The numbers were compiled from BluePearl hospitals in Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, Washington D.C. and Washington state during 2014-2016.