10 Pet Safety Tips for the Fourth of July

Rebecca Bermingham, CVT

Rebecca Bermingham, CVT

. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM
Updated Jun. 19, 2024
brown and tan longhaired chihuahua holding an american flag

Adobe Stock/otsphoto

When gearing up for a fun-filled Fourth of July, it’s important to keep in mind all of the potential risks to our pets during the festivities. While this holiday will likely include many potential stressors for our pets, there are steps we can take to minimize the impact.

Here’s how to keep your pets safe this Fourth of July.

1. Keep Your Pet Indoors

It’s best to keep pets inside during July Fourth celebrations.

For one, dogs don’t sweat to cool themselves the way we humans do, making them much more susceptible to overheating. Many dogs are also overwhelmed or overly excited by a large gathering of people, and some people aren’t comfortable or confident interacting with dogs.

Keeping your dog in the house is a great first step, but it’s more ideal to have your pet behind a barrier when there are people coming in and out of the house. This helps ensure your pet doesn’t have the opportunity to dart outside and get loose. It's not uncommon for dogs who get spooked to use their natural instincts and run away, especially if they are scared of loud noises.

You can use either a crate to keep your pup safe and comfortable, or ensure they are behind a closed door, baby gate, or pen within the house.

2. Create a Safe Space for Your Pet

Consider how the excitement of the day may affect your pet. For cats and dogs more sensitive to noise, a room that has the least exposure to the outdoors and the best sound dampening would likely be most comfortable for them.

The bathroom or laundry room are good places to keep your pup, as these locations often don’t have windows and may be less-noisy retreats.

They will appreciate a cozy bed or a familiar place for them to lounge, enrichment toys or their favorite chew, and fresh water. Adding white noise or music to drown out additional noise, or a pheromone diffuser such as Feliway® or Adaptil™, may help provide additional stress relief.

3. Prepare for Noise Phobias

If your pet has shown fear, anxiety, or stress with sudden loud noises in the past, it is best to start making arrangements for them a few weeks before the Fourth of July.

This includes discussing their sensitivity with your vet and planning for the holiday. This may include:

Practicing desensitization and counter conditioning to firework sounds leading up to the holiday can also help reduce fear. Pets who are anxious typically should not be left alone, so hiring a pet sitter or making plans to stay with your pet during fireworks is also important.

4. Make Sure Your Pet Has an Up-To-Date ID

Even when taking all precautions, accidents can still happen.

It’s important to make sure your pet can be easily identified and returned to you if they do get loose. Having your pet wear a collar with up-to-date contact information can make their prompt return more likely.

Having your animals microchipped—and the microchip registered with all necessary information—provides an added method of identification if they happen to lose their collar. It’s also a good idea to have clear, up-to-date photos of your pets in case they go missing.

Apple® airtags are a common addition to dog collars these days. These airtags work by tracking a pup’s movements through GPS, which is especially helpful for dogs that have a tendency to wander off. 

5. Don’t Give Your Pet People Food

While it can be tempting to share our Fourth of July feast with our pets, it’s often not safe to do so.

Many common backyard barbecue foods carry serious medical risks for both dogs and cats. Beyond the risk of gastrointestinal upset, many ingredients are also incredibly toxic to our pets, such as onionsgarlic, and grapes.

Dogs cannot digest high-fat foods well, and ingesting large quantities of snacks like brisket or hot dogs can lead to a very painful condition called pancreatitis.

Things like corn cobs and meat bones pose a risk of causing a GI obstruction. If bones are chewed and splinter, the sharp pieces ingested may lead to perforations of the esophagus or intestines. It’s best to avoid sharing food with your pet altogether.

6. Avoid Allowing Your Pet Around Alcohol

Alcohol can be very toxic to dogs and cats, causing depression of the central nervous system, organ failure, and even death.

It’s important to note that alcohol does not have to be ingested for your pets to have a toxic reaction; it can also be absorbed through the skin. For your pets’ safety, any product containing alcohol should be kept out of their reach.

Alcohol does not have to be ingested for your pets to have a toxic reaction; it can also be absorbed through the skin.

7. Don’t Let Your Pet Play With Glow Sticks

Glow sticks are very popular on July Fourth, but they are not safe for pets.

Glow sticks contain the chemical dibutyl phthalate and, though it’s non-toxic, when chewed or ingested glow sticks can cause reactions in dogs and cats such as:

  • Drooling

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Agitation

  • Potentially vomiting

8. Keep Your Pet Away From Citronella

Citronella is commonly used during the summer as an insect repellant. It can be found as candles, sprays, torches, essential oils, and in plant form. But none of these products are ideal for our pets to be around.

Burning citronella can be a respiratory irritant for pets, and ingesting the candles can cause severe GI upset.

Coming into contact with a citronella plant can cause skin irritation in pets, while ingesting the plant can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, and weakness. It’s best to avoid having our dogs and cats around any type of citronella.

9. Stay Alert for Signs of Overheating

Pets don’t tolerate hot, humid weather well, and high temperatures can put them at risk of overheating. Providing ample shade and plenty of cool water are two things we can do to minimize this risk, but it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that our pets are too hot.

Heavy panting, labored breathing, drooling, red mucus membranes, and an increased heart rate are all possible signs of an overheating pet.

Brachycephalic pets, pets with laryngeal paralysis, or pets with other types of respiratory compromise are even more at risk of overheating, so extra precautions should be taken to protect them from the summer heat.

10. Be Wary of Open Flames

Firing up the grill for a yummy barbecue is a quintessential Fourth of July tradition. Unfortunately, grilling is not an activity that’s safe for our pets to take part in.

All pets should be a minimum of 3 feet away from open flames or hot grills. It’s even more ideal to have the grill be inaccessible to them completely.

Smoke inhalation can cause significant respiratory irritation, so avoid having pets downwind of any flames. Lighter fluid, matches, and lighters are all toxic to our pets, and the grease drippings from the grill are also not safe for them to lick up.

Preparing ahead of time and taking the necessary precautions to ensure the well-being of our pets can allow us all to have a fun—and safe—holiday.

Rebecca Bermingham, CVT


Rebecca Bermingham, CVT

Veterinarian Technician

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