Summer time brings one of my favorite holidays--Independence Day! Who doesn’t love summer barbecues followed by amazing fireworks displays? We all do! Well, except maybe our pets. Fireworks may be awe inspiring for you, but may be frightening and even downright dangerous for your four legged friend.
I have no idea what is so enticing about a firecracker that would make a dog want to gobble it up, but every year I see a number of cases of firework ingestion in dogs. The severity of the illness depends on the ingredients of the specific firecracker that was eaten.
Some fireworks contain nitrates and chlorates. These substances can cause gastrointestinal upset or worse. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder where abnormally high amounts of hemoglobin accumulate in the blood, resulting in difficulty getting oxygen to the body’s tissues. Symptoms of methemoglobinemia include shortness of breath and blueish gums. If your fireworks contained barium salts, you could see neurologic symptoms as well.
- Pick up spent fireworks, as these can cause the same problems due to residual chemicals left in the packaging.
- Don’t leave matches unattended. Matches contain chlorates, too, and can cause the same problems as fireworks.
These are perhaps the most tragic of the consequences of fireworks that I have seen. Some dogs, especially Retrievers, just can’t help but chase thrown objects. To them, a thrown firecracker is just as much a toy as a tennis ball. Retrieving lit firecrackers is disastrous and heart breaking, and best avoided by leaving your dog at home during the display.
We’ve talked before about thunderstorm phobias and other noise phobias, including the phobia of fireworks. As you know, fireworks are very loud, and some dogs find the noise threatening. Every year around this time, I get calls from worried owners looking for a solution. Make sure your dog is in a place where he feels safe. Turning on a radio or TV to create white noise may help to distract your dog or mask the loud booms. Some dogs need a little bit of extra help coping with their phobia--ask your veterinarian if Valium or Xanax is right for your frightened friend.
Dogs who are frightened are particularly apt to bolt quickly to try to find safety, so if you and your family go out to see a fireworks show, it’s best to leave your dog at home. If you must take your dog with you, keep a firm grip on his leash at all times. I know I may sound like a broken record, but please, please make sure your pet has a microchip. The tiny chip, implanted easily in the back of your dog’s neck, will make a reunion much easier should he slip his lead at your Independence Day celebration, or any other time of the year!