Fourth of July celebrations can be hazardous to your pet

COVINGTON -- While it's admirable to include your pet in Fourth of July activities, experts warn pet owners that they should take a few common sense precautions to avoid accidents and sickness that so often beset Fido during the holiday.

"Many pet parents assume that if their pet is not afraid of thunder or other loud noises, they will not be bothered by fireworks. This is not necessarily true," according to a press release from Sherry Burdic of TravelWithPets.com.

Burdic cautioned that if pets are left outside and unattended, the noise often drives them to run away. Animal Shelters across the country report a high number of strays following July 4th activities. Left indoors alone, pets are often frightened and panicked.

Here are a few tips Burdic said will keep your pet safe and happy:

-- Do not take your pet to fireworks displays.

-- Do not leave your pet alone in the car, which invites heat-related health problems or even death, as well as the opportunity for the pet to be stolen.

-- If you know your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises, consult with your veterinarian ahead of time for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety.

-- If your pet seeks comfort in a bath tub, under a bed or other small space, let them be. Do not try to lure them out.

-- Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn't leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death.

-- Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running at large should be taken to an animal shelter, where they will have the best chance of being reunited with their owners.

And while noise phobias are the most common issue for pet owners during the Fourth of July holiday, Dr. Justin Lee from the Pet Poison Helpline cautions that there are plenty of other hazards that accompany the holiday.

"You can avoid heartaches and unexpected veterinarian expenses by ensuring that your pets don't ingest certain potentially poisonous items," he said.

Those pesky fireworks can also be highly toxic if eaten by your pets. Many contain chemicals like 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 like vomiting, a painful abdomen and bloody diarrhea can result," he said. "In severe cases, pets can suffer tremors or seizures, along with acute kidney failure, bone marrow changes, shallow breathing and jaundice."

Another hazard is the celebratory Fourth of July cookout that pet owners may host.

"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," Lee said.

And other food that may be healthy for humans can be harmful to pets. He warns that corn on the-cob can cause anything from mild stomach distress to required surgery for intestinal blockage. The artificial sweetener xylitol can cause a pet to suffer an acute drop in blood sugar and even liver failure. Foods containing grapes and raisins can result in severe, often fatal, kidney failure.

The common pool chemical chlorine or other pool chemicals when ingested in concentrated form prior to being placed in the pool 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.

Finally, Lee warns that when vacationing at the beach with your pet, 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. This results in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, excessive thirst or urination, tremors, seizures, coma and even death," he said. "Instead of allowing dogs to drink from the ocean, provide them with fresh water. If salt water is ingested, immediate veterinary treatment is recommended."

Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. There is a charge of $39 per incident which includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the case. More information can be found at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.