As people across the country prepare to celebrate our Nation’s Independence, shelter workers are bracing themselves for one of the busiest pet-intake days of the summer: July 5th.

The day following those spectacular fireworks displays, shelters are frequently flooded with terrified dogs that have run away from home in an attempt to escape the loud, concussive noise.

So what can you do to make sure your pet experiences the minimum amount of fear and trembling this Fourth of July? Here are a few tips to help Fido stay calm and stay home:

  • Make sure all pets always are wearing well-fitted collars and securely fastened ID tags. Microchips and tattoos are great ID techniques, too. Even a back-firing car or shot in the woods can be enough to incite a dog to run off, so avoid taking any chances.
  • Don’t take pets to events with fireworks.
  • If fireworks are being set off nearby, or if you’re having guests over for a holiday celebration, find a quiet, secure place to keep your pets. Darkening the room can help. Crating is also a good idea — place the crate in the quietest part of the home. Make sure you put safe chew toys in the crate to occupy and distract the pet during the event. You can close the curtains and turn up the radio, CD player or TV to drown out noise.
  • Do not leave pets outside, even in a fenced yard, anytime when fireworks might be set off in the distance.
  • While trying to cuddle away the fear may not help your dog, new research shows that it also doesn’t do any harm. If it makes you feel better to pet or cuddle your pooch when he’s scared, go ahead and do it. If your stress level is lower, it’s a good bet that feeling of relaxation will have a positive effect on your pet. You can also give your pet a gentle massage, or use Tellington Touch techniques.
  • Try a Thundershirt, a product for dogs that provides a dramatic calming effect with the use of gentle, constant pressure.
  • Vets can prescribe tranquilizers for frightened dogs. Also, some people find that non-prescription remedies such as Rescue Remedy or Serene-um calm their dogs.
  • Though it may seem obvious, never use fireworks around pets. While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Finally, it’s important to remember that fireworks are not the only problem pets face during the summer holiday season. Extreme temperatures, scorching sun rays, and dehydration can also make summertime celebrations stressful and downright dangerous for our four-legged companions.

In addition to the firework safety tips above, here are a few more suggestions that will help keep Fido happy and healthy this 4th of July and beyond:

  • Despite their lovely fur — dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can and do get sunburned. Try to limit your dog’s exposure during peak sun hours, and apply sunblock to the ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside. Products available to protect dogs from sunburn include vests that block ultraviolet rays and pet-specific sunscreen made with ingredients repellent to dogs to keep them from licking it. Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
  • If you have a breed that is predisposed to eye problems, you may also want to consider Doggles to help protect them.
  • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
  • Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestions can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.
  • If your pet joins you for outdoor activities, be sure to keep a bowl of water nearby and provide shade for the pet. If you’re at the beach, having fresh water is especially important —  if your dog gets thirsty, he may begin to lap at the waves. A few gulps of salt water won’t harm your dog, but watch for vomiting and early neurological signs of salt poisoning such as dullness and depression.
  • If your pet does become overheated, spray the animal down with room temperature or cool water, but never ice water. Ice cold water causes a decrease in blood flow to the skin and heat can’t escape the body, which makes heat exhaustion symptoms worse. You can read further about heatstroke (what and what NOT to do) here.
  • And finally, never, ever leave a dog unattended in your vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures.

By following these common sense guidelines, you can help ensure that summertime soirées are enjoyable events for both you and your pet.

Stay safe and have fun this Fourth of July, and remember, you can always make it a true Independence Day by adopting a new furry friend from your local shelter. Now that’s a reason to celebrate!