Fourth of July fireworks can terrorize for your pets, so take steps to protect them

In the coming days, people across the United States will celebrate our nation's independence with cookouts, trips to the lake, vacations to the beach and community celebrations.

Fireworks are a Fourth of July holiday tradition. While fireworks can bring a sense of wonderment to us, they can have a deleterious affect on our pets. The loud popping of exploding fireworks and the bright lights they produce can send our animals into a panic. We've heard many stories of animals, including dogs and horses, that have been sent into a frenzy by fireworks. Often these stories end with the animal darting away from its owners, never to be seen again.

We want everyone -- down to the family poodle -- to have a safe Fourth of July. Below are tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association to keep you pets and animals safe during Independence Day celebrations. More tips can be found at www.avma.org.

Preparing in advance

• Make sure your pets -- cats and dogs alike -- have identification tags with up-to-date information. If you have horses, you might consider marking a safety (breakaway) halter with your contact information and leaving it on your horse during this stressful time.

• If your pets aren't already microchipped, talk with your veterinarian about microchipping. This simple procedure can greatly improve your chances of getting your pets back if they become lost.

•Take a current photo of all of your cats, dogs and horses -- just in case.

Safety during July 4 celebrations

• Leave your pets at home when you go to parties, fireworks displays, parades and other gatherings. Loud fireworks, unfamiliar places and crowds can all be very frightening to pets, and there's great risk of pets becoming spooked and running away.

• Consider putting your pets in a safe, escape-proof room or crate during parties and fireworks.

• Keep horses and livestock in safely fenced areas and as far from the excitement and noise as possible.

• If you're hosting guests, ask them to help keep an eye on your pets to make sure they don't escape. Placing notes on exit doors and gates can help both you and your guests remain vigilant.

• Keep your pets inside if you or your neighbors are setting off fireworks.

After the celebrations

• Check your yard for fireworks debris before allowing pets outside to play or relax. Even if you didn't set off fireworks yourself, debris can make its way into your yard, where curious animals may pick it up to play with or eat.

• Check your pastures and remove debris to protect horses and livestock.

• If you hosted guests, check both your yard and home for food scraps or other debris that might be dangerous to pets, such as food skewers.

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