LOS ANGELES - While Independence Day is a source of revelry and celebration for humans, it can be one of the scariest and most stressful days of the year for pets.
Fireworks in particular cause pets distress because of the loud noises, which can shake houses and set off car alarms, but they also pose another significant threat to pets that may ingest them.
One man's Facebook post warning of the dangers of fireworks to dogs went viral last week after his pug, Zoe, died from ingesting ash from sparklers.
"Zoe chewed up used sparklers ash and died today," James Copp wrote in his post. "She was puking this morning and acting all odd. Couldn't walk or nothing so we took her to the vet."
The vet tried to pump Zoe's stomach, but it was too late.
"Don't let you animals ingest burnt or unburnt fire works. It's really poisons (sp) to animals and there are absolutely no warnings on the box about it," Copp warned.
"She was only a year and a half old. We will never forget you and we miss you R.i.P Zoe."
Fireworks contain several highly toxic chemicals, like charcoal and sulfur, as well as coloring agents like arsenic, cadmium, and barium, which are potentially dangerous heavy metals. Fireworks also contain the oxidizing agent potassium nitrate, which oxidizes red blood cells, causing the iron in blood to rust. This is called methemoglobinemia, and it prevents oxygen from being transported to the heart and brain via the bloodstream.
Severity of symptoms in pets who have ingested fireworks will vary depending on the size and weight of the pet and the type and amount of firework consumed.
"Most gunpowder is made of a few ingredients: potassium nitrate (saltpeter), carbon, and sulfur. If the source is fireworks, the powder may also include chlorates, aluminum, copper, and soluble barium salt," Dr. Lindy West, DVM, told petMD.
Gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms of firework ingestion. Pets that ingest large amounts can also experience tremors or seizures, acute kidney failure, bone marrow changes, jaundice, and in extreme cases, even death.
Sparklers are the most common firework that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center receives calls about, but most cases result in nothing more than stomach upset and vomiting that serves as a kind of self-decontamination of the gastrointestinal tract. But some components of fireworks are corrosive and therefore damaging to the esophageal tract, and attempting to dilute the ingested firework with milk or water can be safer than inducing vomiting.
There are several precautions you can take to keep your pet safe and calm this Fourth of July.
The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests making sure all of your pet's identification information is up to date before the holiday, like ensuring tags on collars and microchip registration services have the your current contact information. If you have a yard, you can check to make sure that it is properly enclosed so that your dog can't slip through a hole in the fence.
On the actual holiday, the AVMA recommends leaving your pets at home when you go out to parties, firework shows, parades, and any other gathering with large crowds and lots of stimulation.
If your pet struggles with anxiety as a result of the noise from fireworks, you can keep them in a safe, escape-proof room or crate during parties and fireworks. If you hear fireworks start to go off in your neighborhood, promptly bring your pet inside.
If you decide to set off fireworks yourself, keep pets inside for the duration and then clean up all residue before letting your pets back into the area. Keep sparklers, fireworks, charcoal, and glow sticks well out of reach of your pets, ideally in a closed cabinet.If your pet does start to display worrisome symptoms, contact a veterinarian or the APCC.