Independence Day Dangers for Pets

of Pet Poison Helpline
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Loud noises aren't the only worry pets face on July Fourth. To help clients keep pets safe, be familiar with the signs and treatments for these four threats


Dangers: Everything from small smoke bombs and sparklers to large aerial displays has the potential to burn curious and unsuspecting pets. What’s more, fireworks can contain a variety of heavy metals—iron, copper, barium, mercury, phosphorus and magnesium—that are used as coloring agents and may cause heavy-metal poisoning if ingested.

Clinical signs: The face, muzzle, lips, tongue, and paws are most common places pets get burned by fireworks. If ingested, the heavy metals or other materials may cause vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, jaundice, tremors, and seizures.

Treatment: If pets are burned or ingest fireworks, immediate examination by a veterinarian is recommended. Given the potential for severe burns especially in the mouth and upper gastrointestinal tract, Pet Poison Helpline does routinely recommend that pet owners induce vomiting at home. Also, activated charcoal to induce vomiting in the clinic is not often recommend since is does not bind well to metals. Overall, treatment is based on the clinical signs noted and may include pain medications, anti-emetics, IV fluids, burn-management procedures, and chelation therapy for heavy metals.

Prognosis: Good in many cases involving small fireworks, minor burns, or very small ingestions. Poor in cases involving large ingestions of multiple fireworks and in cases of liver and neurological damage..


Dangers: Cats seem to especially enjoy chewing on these colorful, glowing sticks and necklaces. Though not highly toxic, the liquid material inside of glow jewelry and glow sticks contains a substance called dibutyl phthalate. This compound is capable of causing immediate stinging or a burning sensation on any tissue that it contacts.

Clinical signs: Dramatic salivation is the most common sign upon ingestion; this is especially true in cats. Other signs include pawing at the mouth, running frantically, hiding or acting fearful, and vomiting.

Treatment: Typically, gently rinsing the mouth or exposed area with water is sufficient to remove the liquid. Additionally, offering a safe treat will help remove the unpleasant taste from the cat’s mouth.

Prognosis: Excellent; signs generally resolve in minutes to hours.


Dangers: Overweight or obese dogs, large breed dogs, those with heavy muscling (pit bulls, boxers), or those that are brachycephalic (i.e., smooshed-nosed dogs like English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and pugs) are predisposed to overheating due their poor ability to dissipate heat. Dogs with health problems like laryngeal paralysis (an airway cartilage abnormality that results in loud, noisy breathing or a change in bark) are also predisposed to heat stroke. Any dogs carrying tennis balls in their mouths are also at risk because their airway is blocked, preventing adequate panting and cooling.

The most dangerous temperature is often 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the presence of 70 percent or 80 percent humidity. At this temperature—and higher temperatures—less evaporative cooling and heat loss take place so the body is unable to cool itself well through panting.

Cats and dogs inside closed cars—even with the windows slightly open—that are exposed to direct sun face a dangerous risk of heat stroke. Even when the temperature is as low as 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside of a car can heat up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 20 minutes, resulting in death in less than an hour.

Clinical signs: Signs of heat stroke while exercising: constant panting, slowing down, collapse, dark red gums, little urine production (or very concentrated, yellow/brown urine), and lethargy. Pets with heat stroke frequently have body temperatures greater than 108 degrees Fahrenheit, which often leads to permanent organ damage (kidney failure, bloody diarrhea), altered clotting (disseminated intravascular coagulation), or death.

Treatment: If any of these signs occur, it is imperative for pet owners to cool their pets immediately in a pond or pool and immediately call their veterinarian. Treatment includes rapid whole-body cooling with cool water baths (not ice), fans, cold towels, and alcohol applied to the paw pads. Aggressive therapy with IV fluids, IV protein (colloids), electrolyte and blood glucose monitoring, plasma transfusions, urine output monitoring, and supportive care are necessary for survival.

Prognosis: Good if treated early and before the body temperature has reached critical levels. Prevention is key—pet owners should carry a water bottle and offer fresh, cool water frequently to their dog, and to keep their pet wet and cooled during walks in hot weather if possible.


Some common July Fourth picnic goodies can pose serious health risks for dogs and cats.
• Corncobs: While corn is certainly not toxic to pets, the cob can easily become lodged in a dog’s esophagus or intestines, often requiring surgical removal.
• Grapes and raisins: Though these make great treats for people and are often found in healthy summer salads, even small numbers of grapes and raisins can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs and, potentially, cats. Some pet-safe picnic foods include carrots, peas, green beans, and apples.
• Meat scraps and drippings: Dogs love to hover around the grill and will ingest almost anything that falls from it. The most problematic grill foods for pets, especially dogs, are large, fatty meat scraps and large amounts of grease in grill drip pans. When dogs eat large amounts of fat and grease, they may suffer from pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which is painful and potentially life-threatening. Certain breeds, especially miniature Schnauzers, are more likely to develop pancreatitis.

Clinical signs:
• With fatty meat or corncob ingestion, delayed onset vomiting will occur one to four days later, and pets may experience abdominal pain, diarrhea (with or without blood), no stool production or straining to pass stool, and a reduced appetite. Lethargy may also be seen with pancreatitis or a bowel obstruction.
• Following the ingestion of grapes and raisins, vomiting within a few hours is typical. Within one to four days, pets may experience increased urination, increased thirst, lethargy, and a reduced appetite.

• Corncobs: If a dog ingests a corncob (or any potentially obstructive object), it is best for pet owners to speak to a veterinarian right away to determine the best course of action. The immediate induction of vomiting at home is not always wise. Objects such as corncobs may become lodged in the esophagus while the dog is attempting to vomit them up—a situation known as “choke.” This is a true medical emergency and must be managed in the veterinary hospital. In cases where the obstruction is in the stomach or intestines, surgical removal is often necessary.
• Grapes and raisins: Pet owners may safely induce vomiting at home in many of these cases; however, they should not do so without the directive of a veterinarian. Next, the pet should be quickly brought to the clinic. When the patient arrives, induce vomiting and then administer activated charcoal to decontaminate (adsorb and remove toxins). Follow up by administering anti-vomiting medication and aggressive intravenous fluids to protect the kidneys. Frequent monitoring of kidney laboratory values, as well as in-hospital care are also recommended.
• Meat scraps and drippings: The treatment of pancreatitis can be quite involved. Anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medications, IV fluids, monitoring of blood chemistry panels, and in-hospital care may all be needed. In certain cases, other drugs such as antibiotics and pain medications may be necessary.

Prognosis: The prognosis for all of these problematic picnic foods is good if treatment is started early. However, for dogs that have already developed a severe bowel obstruction, kidney failure, or pancreatitis, the prognosis becomes worse and treatment much more involved.