The Fourth of July is the culmination of many fun summer activities, such as cookouts, pool parties, and fireworks. While parties and fireworks are fun for people, they can be scary for our pets, and are the main reasons pets misbehave or run awayin fact, July Fourth is the busiest day of the year for animal control officers. Whether you’re hosting a party or leaving your pets at home while you attend festivities elsewhere, take the following steps to ensure your pet is safe:

1: Have your pet microchipped, and keep your information up to date

Every lost animal who is taken to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter is scanned for a microchip. Having your pet microchipped with up-to-date information is the best way to ensure you and your furry friend are reunited.

2: Party food—and alcohol—is for humans, not for pets

Ensure your pets do not eat any food scraps or drink any alcohol during the party. Remind your guests that many people foods can be harmful to pets, and be familiar with the foods that are toxic to dogs, including garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, chives, rhubarb, avocado, chocolate, candy, and non-sugar sweeteners.

3: Insect repellent is a bad idea for pets

Although insect repellent is essential for people at an outdoor party, the repellent must be applied away from pets so they do not accidentally get sprayed, or rub or lick an area that caught the spray. Pets also can breathe in the chemicals, or get the spray in their eyes or mouths or through their skin. Small amounts of chemicals, particularly DEET, are toxic. If you want your pet to join the Fourth of July fun without being bothered by pests, use a product expressly labeled for pets, or ask our veterinary team for advice.

Essential oils also can harm cats and dogs, even those suggested for use on pets, since the oils can be inhaled or absorbed in toxic levels directly through the skin. The most toxic essential oils are cinnamon, citrus (limonene), pennyroyal, and peppermint, but almost all are unsafe for dogs and cats. In addition, keep pets away from citronella candles, which can cause pneumonia or respiratory irritation if the smoke is inhaled, as well as Tiki torches, matches, lighter fluid, and insect coils, which are all toxic to animals.

4: Keep glow sticks away from pets

Glow sticks contain toxins like arsenic, and ingestion can poison your pet. Sparklers also can be toxic if eaten, and can burn and traumatize your pet. Keep her safe and far away from these festive items.

5: Check your yard for firework debris

If you live near a fireworks display, or you put on your own show at home, check your yard carefully before allowing your pet back outside. Clean up any trash, because fireworks leave behind wrappers and debris that contain toxins and can be choking hazards. Even if you did not let off your own fireworks, check your yard carefully, because debris from a professional fireworks display can travel long distances.

6: Use a compression shirt to help your anxious pet

If fireworks cause anxiety in your pet, consider using a compression shirt, medication, pheromones, or calming music to reduce her stress. Keeping her secure in a quiet room or her crate is crucial. If your pet’s reaction is severe, ask your veterinarian about behavioral therapy to help her.

The day after July Fourth celebrations is the ASPCA’s busiest day of the year. If the worst happens and your pet escapes, a microchip and a tag are the best way to ensure a successful reunion. When you plan your Fourth of July festivities, also plan how to keep your pet safe and comfortable. Remember that Fourth of July preparedness means not only keeping your pet secure, but also ensuring she does not have access to food, chemicals, explosives, and debris that can be dangerous.

Take these simple precautions to keep your furry friend safe and out of harm’s way—and out of a shelter. Contact us before the July Fourth holiday if your pet needs a microchip or help with her anxiety.