The Fourth of July holiday often includes barbecues, parties and swimming. For some pet owners, it can also mean an emergency trip to the veterinarian that could have been avoided.
- Fireworks: In addition to being loud and scary to pets when lit, unused fireworks can be toxic if ingested. Many contain hazardous chemicals such as chlorates that harm red blood cells and the kidneys, soluble barium salts that cause life-threatening drops in potassium, and sulfur and coloring agents that contain dangerous heavy metals.
Gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, a painful abdomen and bloody diarrhea can result. The severity of the reaction will depend on the type of fireworks and the amount ingested. In severe cases, pets can suffer tremors or seizures, along with acute kidney failure, bone marrow changes, shallow breathing and jaundice.
When lighting off fireworks, it’s best to keep pets indoors, away from the noise and risk for thermal injury. Clean up any fireworks pieces that may have landed in your yard before allowing your pets in the yard.
Also keep charcoal, sparklers and glow sticks far from curious canines. Even when unlit, these can cause serious problems if a dog decides to chew.
- Barbecue foods: We love cookouts, but they can have the opposite effect on pets. While rich, savory meats aren’t poisonous to dogs or cats, they can cause anything from mild vomiting and diarrhea to full-fledged fatal pancreatitis, especially in sensitive dog breeds like miniature schnauzers, Yorkshire terriers, and Shetland sheepdogs.
Corn-on-the-cob can also cause issues ranging from vomiting and diarrhea, to forming a severe foreign body in the dog’s intestines requiring surgery.
Desserts made with xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener, can also be harmful, causing an acute drop in blood sugar and even liver failure.
Likewise, foods containing grapes and raisins can result in severe, fatal acute kidney failure when ingested by dogs. Foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals.
- Treats: Avoid upset stomachs by keeping dog treats on hand for guests who want to give your dog food. Check out some recipes for homemade dog and cat treats
- Pool chemicals: Chlorine is a common pool chemical. When ingested in its concentrated form (e.g., powder, tablets, etc.) prior to being placed in the pool, it can result in severe corrosive injury to both humans and pets. Burns to the eyes, skin, mouth, and esophagus can develop, and result in permanent injury. Once diluted appropriately in the pool water, chlorine no longer poses a corrosive risk. Always keep pool chemicals and cleaners safely out of the reach of pets.
- Salt water: If celebrating by the ocean, be aware of salt poisoning. If large amounts of ocean water are ingested while playing on the beach, hypernatremia (an elevated salt level) can occur, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, excessive thirst or urination, tremors, seizures, coma and even death. Instead of allowing dogs to drink from the ocean, provide them with fresh water. If salt water is ingested, immediate veterinary treatment is recommended.
- Sunscreens and bug sprays: 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.
- Flames: During cookouts, ask guests to play with your dog away from the flames. Learn more about cookout safety for pets.
- Alcohol: Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. 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.
- Matches, lighter fluid: Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ 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.
- Citronella: Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestion can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.
- Heat: Fourth of July festivities can make people forget that on any summer day, heat puts pets in jeopardy. A dog doesn’t have to be shut in a car to be at risk of heat stroke. Keep an eye on your pets and act immediately if you see any signs of heat stroke.
If you think your dog or cat may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680. Pet Poison Helpline charges $39 per call, including unlimited follow-up consultations. There is also an iPhone application listing an extensive database of more than 200 poisons dangerous to cats and dogs. “Pet Poison Help” is available on iTunes for $1.99.