Keep pets safe during July 4th festivities

July 2nd, 2014 at 1:45 pm by under Latest Posts

The following release was issued by Ben Swan of The Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society:

SANTA FE — Bright lights and loud noises might mean a festive Independence Day for some, but for many furry friends it’s a reason to hide and run.

Noise anxiety causes many pets to do whatever they can to get away – hiding for cover or even jumping through screened doors and windows.

Shelter workers and veterinarians agree that when it comes to pets, playing it safe is the best bet. Judith Meriwether, lead veterinarian at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter’s Clare Eddy Thaw Animal Hospital, said the day after Independence Day is typically a busy time at veterinary hospitals and shelters.

Dogs who are scared are more likely to try to get away, Meriwether said, which means they are more at risk of being hit by vehicles or simply becoming lost if they escape from the confines of their home. Other signs of anxiety related to holiday events include increased vocalization, panting, pacing, agitation and being destructive.

Meriwether urges people who know their animals can be anxious during such infrequent events to visit their veterinarian and have them prescribe anti-anxiety medication. The medication, usually a Valium derivative, is good for short-term incidents. It’s not to be used on a long-term basis.

“We recommend giving the animal the medication usually about 20-30 minutes before the actual signs of festivities start,” she said. “It used to be that we would prescribe a sedative, but it didn’t treat the primary anxiety – it just made them disoriented and didn’t help the baseline stress that they were suffering.”

The medication is good for about six hours, she said.

Aside from medication, follow these simple tips to make the holiday a pleasant one for you and your best friend:

  • Keep animals away from fireworks. Leave them at home and inside if you’re headed to a fireworks display.
  • Stay indoors with your pet if you can, but if you plan to leave, make a safe place available for your animal, such as an open closet or crate. Leave the television or music on to diffuse outside noise. “White noise” like fans or soothing sounds such as classical music helps to drown out startling noises. Meriwether suggests setting up a “safe zone” for anxious animals at all times, so that the animal doesn’t associate the actions with the anticipated noise. “If they always have a safe place, and they use that on-going, then that’s great,” she said. “What we try to tell people is to not just play music to simply shield the sound, because then it’s just another trigger, or another associated stressful incident for them. Animals are smart and they will put together if ‘A’ happens, then ‘B’ will happen.”
  • Offer a toy or treat to keep your pet occupied.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with up-to-date information on his or her tags. Microchip your pet.
  • Consider purchasing a ThunderShirt for your pet. The shirt, which easily wraps over most dogs, is designed to provide a calming effect when a canine experiences fear or separation anxiety.

If your pet does disappear during Fourth of July festivities or at any other time, immediately inform your friends and neighbors and canvass the area. Post flyers with a current photo of your pet and call the shelter at 983-4309, ext. 606, or check the shelter’s Lost Pet website at

Many festive foods and products also can be potentially hazardous to your four-legged friend. Keep your pets in mind when planning your party:

  • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them, along with citronella candles, insect coils and oil products.
  • Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent to your pet that is not labeled specifically for pets. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
  •  Keep your pet on a normal diet. Any changes in your pet’s diet, even for one meal, can result in indigestion or diarrhea.
  • Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it. While the ingredients in these products are not highly toxic, ingesting them can cause gastrointestinal irritation or blockage.

The recent smoke from nearby wildfires also can be hazardous to your animals’ health. Meriwether urges animal guardians to keep their pets inside if possible and to limit outside activities. HEPA-filtered rooms are best for those animals.

“Animals’ airways are very similar to our airways,” she said. “We do have some dogs and cats who are very sensitive to environmental-inhaled irritants like smoke and fumes, and those animals can become prone to bronchitis and chronic coughing.”

Keep the animal inside until the smoke clears, Meriwether said, and if the animal has a chronic cough or shows difficulty in breathing, see a veterinarian. “There are definitely things we can prescribe to help minimize the amount of injury they can have from smoke inhalation or environmental sensitivity.”

The Clare Eddy Thaw Animal Hospital is located on the Santa Fe Animal Shelter campus, 100 Caja del Rio Road. It is open to the public and offers reduced rates for income-qualified clients. For more information, call the hospital at 983-2755.

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