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Editorial: Keep pets safe during Fourth of July fireworks, heat wave

The Fourth of July is one of our most celebrated holidays. Certainly, Independence Day is a time to reflect on the founding of our nation. And many will, which is a good thing. Many more will enjoy the day off with family, friends and fireworks. That’s also a good thing — unless you happen to be an animal, easily spooked by loud noises.

The bursting in air of sanctioned fireworks at the carnival grounds in Mount Airy on Wednesday night and at the Farm Museum in Westminster on July 4 — not to mention the non-sanctioned and sometimes dangerous amateur fireworks displays in so many backyards — will create a tremendous racket that can be upsetting to pets and trigger a “flight” response.

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Startled and scared, many of them will do whatever they can to get away from the commotion, including running off. In fact, according to the Missing Pet Partnership, the Fourth of July is the day with the highest level of reported lost pets. The Humane Society offers some tips for keeping pets safe and protected on Independence Day and every day of the year:

  • All pets should have identification tags with up-to-date information, including a phone number. Microchips are an excellent form of permanent identification.
  • Have a “safe spot” for pets to stay in and keep them inside if neighbors are setting off fireworks. Be sure it is secure with no easy access to the outside.
  • Prepare some fun food puzzles or stuff some Kong toys and stick them in the freezer for "pup"sicles to keep pets happy and busy.
  • If a pet has historically been anxious on this holiday, consider behavioral therapy or medication.
  • Do not bring pets with you to the fireworks.

Times columnist Iris Katz, in her latest Pet Wise column, cited some tips from Kathy Santos of the American Kennel Club’s magazine Family Dog. She recommended that owners acquire videos or recordings of fireworks played at a low volume in the morning and gradually increasing the volume during the day with owners observing their dog’s response to the sounds and adjusting the volume as needed. She suggested owners remain at home if their dogs are afraid of the sounds of fireworks and advised owners to slowly inhale and exhale when fireworks (or thunder) start, to play calming music, and to keep high-value treats or toys within reach to give to the dog when a firework goes off.

Per the Humane Society, if you come home to find your pet has run away, immediately call the microchip company (if applicable) to notify them, search the neighborhood and contact area veterinarians, shelters, and animal control facilities to report your pet missing. Give them fliers with a recent picture, identifying features, and contact information. Be sure to post it on Facebook and other social media lost pet sites.

Additionally, Wednesday and Thursday are expected to be hot and humid — it is July in Maryland, after all — with highs in the 90s. That type of heat can can also be dangerous to pets. So make sure your pet has a means of cooling off. When walking, stay off of hot surfaces like asphalt because it can burn a dog's paws and keep the walks short. Make sure the pets have unlimited access to water, shade when they are outside and never leave a pet in a car, which can quickly overheat to deadly temperatures. Seek emergency veterinary care if any of these signs of heat stress are observed: anxiousness, excessive panting, restlessness, excessive drooling, unsteadiness, abnormal gum and tongue color, collapse.

By all means, celebrate the Fourth of July. Enjoy the fireworks. Just remember to keep your pets calm, cool and safe.

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