The 4th of July is a time for celebration and parties, but for some pets it can be traumatic. Things like fireworks, some barbecue foods, pool chemicals and even salt water can turn the holiday into a nightmare for pets.
“Noise phobias are by far the most common issue for pets and their owners, but our call center is also inundated with pet poisoning cases on the 4th of July,” said Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. “You can avoid heartaches and unexpected veterinarian expenses by ensuring that your pets don’t ingest certain potentially poisonous items.”
The veterinary and toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline offer this list of common dangers that pose a threat to pets on the 4th of July.
In addition to being loud and scary to pets when lit, unused fireworks can be toxic if ingested. Many contain hazardous 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. The severity of the reaction will depend on the type of firework 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, its best to keep pets indoors, away from the noise and risk for thermal injury.
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.
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.
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.
The veterinary and toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy 4th of July holiday. If, however, you think your dog or cat may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680. Pet Poison Helpline is the most cost-effective animal poison control center in North America charging only $39 per call, including unlimited follow-up consultations. Pet Poison Helpline also has an iPhone application listing an extensive database of over 200 poisons dangerous to cats and dogs. “Pet Poison Help” is available on iTunes for $1.99.