More dogs run away on the July 4th than on any other day of the year - primarily due to the sensory overload from fireworks. The giant burst of explosives and subsequent whimper drives dogs nuts and often triggers their innate flight instinct.
Many people equate the sights and sounds of Independence Day fireworks with the trauma that dogs can experience in thunderstorms. But there are a number of differences. First, fireworks are manmade. Second, fireworks are closer to the ground and more vibrant. Third, dogs are not prepared for the sudden sensory experiences of booms (sound), flashes (sight) and burnt aromas (scent) that come with fireworks.
How to prepare for July 4th
Take your dog away from areas where there will be a fireworks display nearby. Take them to a relatives house or to a day care center they are familiar with and comfortable at. Plan ahead -- if you are taking them to a new place they haven’t been, expose them to the home or center in the days and weeks before the holiday, so when you take them for the holiday, it’s not a surprise and for them, it’s just like any other day of the year.
Don’t think of this in terms of your dog as your child who is missing out on a great, fun time. That’s human guilt and trust me, the dog won’t know what he’s missing and has no burning desire to celebrate the holiday with fireworks. You’re being a goodleader by not exposing him to a situation that will trigger his flight instinct in a negative way.
If you leave the dog at home, you can do so in akennel. Make sure there is someone who can let him out to relieve himself every four hours and provide a little companionship until you’re home. Be sure you take your dog out for some exercise before putting him/her in the kennel. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog - and a happy dog means a happy you.
Some dogs can deal with the sights and sounds of fireworks if they’ve been desensitized (e.g., hunting dogs). You can try to play sounds for your dog that simulates fireworks before he eats, before a walk, beforeand play, and condition him to hear the sound and interpret it as something good. But keep in mind, the soundtrack cannot replace the actual power of real fireworks (which are inevitably much louder and more abrupt, and include visual and scent stimuli as well). If you must have your dog near fireworks, then make sure he is properly leashed and close to you.
This rule applies even more so for personal fireworks - In addition to the risk or your dog escaping, exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious dogs, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.
Some additional July 4th Tips
Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where your dog can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison dogs. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your dogs’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.
Do not put glow jewelry on your dogs, or allow them to play with it. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.
Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestions can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in dogs.