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Independence Day is a lively, outdoor holiday that offers many opportunities to include your furry friend. Although these summer festivities can be enjoyable for both pet and person, owners should be wary of possible hazards associated with the celebration.

Kate Kimble, a third-year veterinary student and student ambassador at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, advises pet owners on how they can keep their animals safe this Fourth of July.

“When attending a social event with your dog, make sure to keep them leashed and up to date on all their vaccines so they can interact safely with other people and pets,” Kimble said.

Pet owners also may want to consider providing guidelines to their friends and other partygoers on how they should interact with a pet. For example, an owner might ask that others refrain from slipping their pooch table scraps.

“During holidays we often have an abundance of decadent foods that we, as people, look forward to and love,” Kimble said. “Avoid feeding your pets scraps or bites of human foods, as they can often lead to an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.”

In severe cases, a gastrointestinal disorder may develop. Obstructions may also occur — especially if your pet gets their paws on a bone or corn on the cob. In addition, alcohol should never be given to pets because it can be fatal.

Your pet can also become ill from chowing down on non-food party items, like decorations or sparkly streamers, and develop a serious medical condition, such as a blockage, Kimble advised. Owners who suspect that their pet has ingested a toxic substance should contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or their veterinarian.

Pet owners should also keep an eye out for their pet’s temperature. Especially in a Texas summer, preventing overheating is paramount. Owners should be aware of the dangers of heat stroke.

“During Fourth of July gatherings, make sure to keep your pet cool, with plenty of access to water, shade, and place to retreat from the hot summer air,” Kimble said.

Fireworks are a highlight of the holiday for many people, but our pets may not enjoy the loud explosions and flashing. Kimble warns that pet owners should be cautious of allowing their pets outdoors during fireworks shows, as the loud noises and lights might spook an animal and cause them to flee their yard if they feel unsafe.

“Some of our furry companions are not the biggest fans,” she said. “To ensure the safety of pets during a fireworks display, keep them inside or away from the fireworks, in an area in which they are shielded from the loud noises, bright lights, and sparks.”

If pet owners are concerned about how their furry friend handles disruptive events, they should reach out to their veterinarian to best determine how to keep their pet calm and happy. Kimble advises that there are tools to help your pet better manage stress, including veterinarian-prescribed medications and calming treats or chew toys.

“Another option to help pets through scary times, such as a fireworks display, is to dress them in a compressive vest or shirt that applies constant pressure, which mimics swaddling and promotes a calming sense in the animal,” she said.

Outdoor games and gatherings hosted on Independence Day can provide wonderful enrichment for your pet. Although pet owners should remain vigilant and keep an eye out for any dangers this holiday brings, it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our nation and freedoms with friends and family, person, and pet.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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