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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• Avoid poisonous landscaping mistakes. If you're jazzing your yard up to host company this Fourth of July, try to do it in a pet-friendly way so your pets or your guests' pets stay safe. Dr. DeClementi says cocoa bean mulch, popular among some homeowners, can be toxic to dogs, and its sweet aroma can lure them in for a bite. Snail- and slug-killing chemicals are also toxic, so go with organic landscaping techniques to keep your family, friends, and four-legged friends safe from harmful chemical pesticides.

• Don't keep your pet in a car. Never leave an animal unattended in a car. Leaving the windows rolled down does not provide adequate air flow or cooling, and could kill your pet in minutes.

• Don't create a dietary disaster. While hotdogs and hamburgers generally won't kill a pet, feeding popular Fourth of July fare to pets could cause vomiting and diarrhea, something you probably don't feel like cleaning up during a holiday party. More serious health threats for dogs come from eating chocolate or grapes, so be sure to keep those out of reach.

• Beware of the beer. Pets are generally a lot smaller than we are, and yes, they can get drunk. Fallen beer or wine can be lapped up and result in an intoxicated pet. As in humans, an excessive amount could result in the imbiber slipping into a coma.

• Forgo glow jewelry. Fourth of July picnics, parades, or parties might feature glow jewelry, a novelty in the cat world, too. Felines love to play with glow jewelry, and if they bit into the plastic tubing, they often react in a way that looks deadly. "Glow jewelry is not high in toxicity, but looks scary because cats drool and run away," says Dr. DeClementi. If your cat is unfortunate enough to chomp down on the stuff, Dr. DeClementi recommends feeding the animal something tasty to wash away the bad taste, and then taking it into a dark room for observation. If you see glowing material around the mouth and paws, wipe it off with a damp cloth, or the cat will likely lick it and repeat the drooling episode.

• Let fireflies fly. While catching fireflies isn't reserved for just the Fourth of July (we hope you let them go!), it is a seasonal topic that Dr. DeClementi addresses, since some people catch fireflies and try to feed them to pet lizards. "Feed them a few and bearded and dragon lizards can die," she warns. To be safe, just leave the fireflies outside, and allow them to put on their own peaceful fireworks show for the Fourth.

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