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4th of July Fears

Fireworks, other patriotic fun can scare your furry friends

Posted: June 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Fourth of July is usually a festive time of fireworks and food. For pets, however, the holiday can be a time of great stress.

“Pets get spooked by fireworks,” said Dr. Balpal Sandhu, veterinarian and owner of Canyon Country Veterinary Hospital and All Creatures Emergency Center in Newhall. “They should probably get a little sedation, so as not to get too upset by the commotion. Any veterinarian can prescribe one.”

Other strategies for keeping your pets safe, according to Sandhu, include keeping pets at home instead of heading out together to a community fireworks event.

“If a pet gets panicked, they can get out from your arms and into the street, where there is lots of traffic. It can be hard to catch them,” he said. “Most of the time, when we see a pet during the holiday, it’s because it got hit by a car and has lacerations.”

Instead, Sandhu suggested making sure pets are safely kept at home, in a securely locked area such as a garage or bedroom.

Dog trainer Mark Tipton of AngelDogs Training in Newhall recommended products such as a Thundershirt or Rescue Remedy Pets for canines that are known to have a severe reaction to pyrotechnics.

“A Thundershirt wraps around the dog’s body. It’s like wrapping a baby in a blanket,” he explained.

Rescue Remedy, an essential oil formulated with calming herbs, helps by masking the offensive olfactory byproducts of fireworks.

“Dogs can smell gunpowder and are afraid of it, even more than the bang or flash of light,” Tipton said.

Music is another soothing distraction. “Try playing classical or a CD called (‘Thru a Dog’s Ear,’) which is classical music played at the same rate of a resting dog’s heartbeat,” Tipton said.

Beyond the explosives associated with the holiday, Fourth of July presents other hazards that can harm a pet’s health, including the great American pastime of grilling outdoors. Pets should be kept away from fluids, fire and some well-meaning people.

“When barbecuing, make sure friends and family don’t offer food that can make the pets sick. You also have to be careful when disposing garbage. Pets can get into bones and fat, which can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, pancreatitis and liver issues,” Sandhu said.

Like their human counterparts, some pets should be protected from the sun, said Sandhu. “If they have light skin, especially around the nose and eyes, I see nothing wrong with putting on sunscreen. Most pet stores have pet-approved sunscreens, but my clients have used human sunscreen, too, and I haven’t seen any negative reactions to it so far.”

Going out of town without your pet? Sandhu strongly encouraged boarding at a reputable facility or hiring a bonded/insured pet sitter for in-home care.

If opting for the latter, leaving the television or radio on in between visits often promotes a calm environment.

“It helps keep pets busy, it gives them some kind of sound in the house to overlap what may be going on outside,” Sandhu said. “One thing I would also tell people is to talk to the kids in your neighborhood and ask them not to do random fireworks before or after the holiday, to be respectful of upsetting pets. It’s about being a responsible neighbor.”

Holiday or no holiday, Sandhu is a proponent of microchips for all pets.

“We find a lot of stray pets after the holiday. Pets should have a collar with a name tag, of course, but those can fall off, so a micro-chip is crucial. That way, the pet can always be traced back to its owner,” said Sandhu.

Owners looking for lost pets should always contact Castaic Animal Care Center, the animal shelter responsible for the Santa Clarita Valley, by calling 661-257-3191 or visiting the facility located at 31044 N. Charlie Canyon Road, Castaic.


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