Exercise a Bit of Caution to Have a Fun, Safe July 4 with Your Dog

Common holiday trappings can prove harmful to your dog
June 29, 2012

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Tara Pettinato

GRAFTON, Mass. — While millions will gather with family and friends this July 4 to celebrate the nation’s independence, there is one key dependence to keep in mind: your dog is relying on you to keep him safe this holiday.

The common trappings of Independence Day—cookouts, hot, humid weather and fireworks—all pose a danger to dogs, says Liz Rozanski, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC, associate professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Keeping these in mind will help you keep your dog safe during the celebration:

  • Shish kabobs and other foods-on-a-stick pose a special danger to dogs, who can ingest them and wind up with fragments which can cause blockages or gastrointestinal perforations, says Dr. Rozanski, who is section head of emergency care at Tufts’ Foster Hospital for Small Animals, one of the nation’s busiest academic veterinary emergency rooms. Bones can also splinter inside a dog’s digestive tract. Keep pets clear of chicken wings and don’t give them bones from the meat you grill.
  • Other foods can be toxic to dogs. The garlic in your favorite marinade, the grapes and raisins in your fruit salad, or the chocolate in your brownies can all cause harm. Keep them out of your dog’s reach.
  • A little food at the cookout is fun for dogs—let them enjoy the party. But “people” food adds up quickly, so have your guests, especially kids, check in with you before feeding Fido their scraps. Letting dogs overeat can cause vomiting or more serious problems. Talking to kids about not overfeeding dogs can be a wonderful teaching moment!
  • During the hot, humid months, heat stroke and exhaustion are a special concern for canines. Make sure they have plenty of water. Put some ice cubes in it for a special treat, Dr. Rozanski says, and provide a shady spot to lie down. If your dog is panting excessively, shows signs of lethargy or has dry gums, call your veterinarian right away.
  • During warm weather, never leave pets in the car. Any outside temperature above 65 degrees is especially worrisome, Dr. Rozanski says. Leave pets at home in a cool, safe place.
  • Dogs afraid of thunder are most certainly going to be fearful of fireworks. If you head out with your family to watch the fireworks, make sure your dog has a safe, quiet (ideally, soundproof) place to rest during the rockets’ red glare.

Dr. Liz Rozanski and her dog, Cordis, teach a boy how to listen to a dog's heart. Similarly, talking to kids about not overfeeding dogs at the holidays can be a great teaching moment. The mid-week holiday is a great time for everyone to have fun. And by following these few easy tips, you can ensure that you and your pet can enjoy Independence Day together safely.

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 About the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Founded in 1978 in North Grafton, Mass., Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is internationally esteemed for academic programs that impact society and the practice of veterinary medicine; three hospitals and two clinics that combined log more than 80,000 animal cases each year; and groundbreaking research that benefits animal, public, and environmental health.