Raining Cats & Dogs
A lot of dogs and cats will be dreading the 4th of July, especially when all the explosions start. But it turns out fireworks aren't the only things pet owners should be worried about during the holiday. (AP file)

How to protect your pet on July 4th from more than just fireworks

A lot of dogs and cats will be dreading the 4th of July, especially when all the explosions start. But it turns out fireworks aren't the only things pet owners should be worried about during the holiday.

"It's all the big parties around the house. Stuff that isn't normally left around for Fido or fluffy to get into," says Shawn Stewart, host of KIRO Radio's "It's Raining Cats and Dogs."

The first thing to watch out for is different foods that can make pets sick. Chocolate, onions, coffee, avocados, grapes and raisins are all problematic. And if you're a baker, it's important to keep pets away from uncooked dough.

"Uncooked dough can actually keep rising in your pet's stomach and cause intense distress and even death," says expert pet trainer Wynona Karbo with Ahimsa Pet Training.

There are plenty of other things pets like to get into as well, including tasty alcoholic beverages.

"Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended," cautions Stewart. "You don't want a drunk cat or dog at your party. No one knows how they're going to handle their liquor. Seriously, it's a poison to pets."

So is sunscreen, bug spray, and even lighter fluid. Many are scented, which can make them attractive to animals. Even matches can end up causing big problems.

"Certain types of matches contain chlorates that can potentially damage blood cells, irritate breathing, cause other problems," Wynona warns.

But beyond getting into something they shouldn't, dealing with animals freaking out over fireworks is probably the biggest concern for most pet owners.

While not all animals go crazy when the booms start going, many do.

"It's a good idea to put them in a room with the windows closed," Wynona says. "Otherwise, they will find a way out of their house if they are scared."

It's also a good time to make sure they're micro-chipped or have very clear identification on their collars in case they get out.

You can actually help ease the fear of animals with a little training beforehand. Wynona recommends playing some fireworks sounds from a CD or YouTube while your pet is in their safe room. Give them treats at the same time. That way, they begin to associate the sounds with a pleasurable experience.

Researchers have also found putting nervous dogs with others that aren't bothered by the booms can significantly calm them, even more than an owner.

"Dogs are more comforted by other dogs," Wynona says. "The one who is scared will often cue off the other dog. It's not just observational study. They looked at stress hormones and dogs who were around other less stressed dogs were less stressed."

And even though you think your dog likes to be around other people, the experts say it's best to leave them home and not bring them to crowded gatherings and fireworks display. They'll be much happier at home.

It's Raining Cats and Dogs with Shawn Stewart can be heard on KIRO Radio on Sundays 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. It's available on demand at KIRORadio.com.

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com Reporter
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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