Summer Pet Safety Tips

Don't let fireworks, chocolate, or grill cleaners spell disaster for your pet this summer holiday season.

By Leah Zerbe

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While you're celebrating, your frightened pet may be running for cover. The Fourth of July is one of those holidays that's especially loud and boisterous, thanks in large part to the thundering cracks, booms, and pops of fireworks displays showering over community parks and backyards. While it might be fun for families to watch, enduring a fireworks show can scare the bejeezus out of our four-legged friends. So much so, that many shelters report an uptick in runaway dogs around the Fourth of July.

"While pets can eat fireworks, we only see about a dozen of those cases a year," says Camille DeClementi, DVM, senior director of Animal Health Services for the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. "Toxicity is a concern, but the big thing is the sound. Some pets have a noise phobia."

Beyond that, there are plenty of other cautions to keep in mind regarding pet safety on the Fourth.

Here's how to protect pets from the biggest Fourth of July pet safety risks:

• Create a fireworks-free zone for your pet. Dogs who are afraid of thunder can become terrified when your local fireworks show begins. (Some cats and horses are spooked by fireworks, too.) To protect house pets from fireworks, refrain from taking them out of the house and to a fireworks show. Since your neighbors might also be setting off explosives to celebrate the country's independence, Dr. DeClementi suggests placing pets in a windowless room, with drinking water available and a TV or radio left on to distract them from the explosions taking place outside. Even if you're just planning to wave sparklers around in the backyard, Dr. DeClementi recommends putting your animals indoors. Some might actually mistake a sparkler for a toy, putting them at risk for burns. Plus, neighbors might set off noisy fireworks that could put your pet in panic mode.

Avoiding leaving your pet outside, even if you have a fenced-in yard, because they often try to escape during fireworks shows. If you tie or chain your dog outside, the dog could become seriously injured or be killed if it panics when fireworks go off. As a general rule of thumb, try to take dogs out to the bathroom and for a walk while it's still light out before fireworks start. And be sure to keep them on a leash if you must go outside with them after dark.

• Clean your grill safely. Many grill cleaners contain harsh chemicals that are corrosive in nature. These can burn a curious pet's mouth. Plus, do you really want to cook your food around those chemicals? Use our fast and easy green grill cleaning tips for safer options.

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