Fourth of July brings out the inner-Mayberry in Montclair, New Jersey: The day always starts with a parade, complete with marching bands, homemade floats, beauty queens and clowns. It seems everyone in town loves a parade — the route is always lined with people, kids in strollers and dogs on leashes.

Everyone except Ruby, the 5-year-old Shetland sheepdog who belongs to Safebee contributing editor, Maura Rhodes.

“The one time we took Ruby to the parade, decked out in a stars-and-stripes bandana, I expected she would have a great time mingling with other people and their pooches,” Rhodes recalls. “In fact, she was so freaked out by the noise and commotion I had to bring her home before it was over. No more parades for Ruby.”

Independence from danger and disaster

The Fourth of July poses special challenges for pet owners — especially those who like to bring their canine companions along for everything. But while his “human” is otherwise engaged in patriotic festivities, a dog can easily get lost, sick or hurt. Here are some important ways to keep pets safe on July 4th.

Related: When to Take a Sick Pet to the Vet

Turn down the volume

In other words, don’t expose your pup to excessive noise. Besides possibly causing him to become fearful and anxious and a permanent party pooper, like Ruby, very loud and sudden noise can damage a dog’s hearing, according to veterinary experts at Louisiana State University. That’s because tiny muscles in the middle ear contract to buffer the inner ear from loud sounds. Percussive noises, like from fireworks, occur too rapidly to provide that protection and the delicate hair cells in the inner ear can become permanently damaged.

Even if your pet doesn’t seem to mind loud noises, it’s best to not to bring her to watch fireworks, says Virginia Sinnott, DVM, a veterinarian at the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Angell Animal Medical Center, who specializes in critical care.

Leave pyrotechnics to the pros

Setting off fireworks is never safe for anyone, including family pets. A curious dog (or cat) could easily mistake a toss of a lit firecracker as an invitation to play fetch or want to sniff a sizzling sparkler and wind up with severe burns to the face or paws.

Poisoning is a possibility too: Many fireworks contain toxic substances, says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Keep your entire family, including the furballs, safe by simply not bringing fireworks into your home or yard.

Keep your pooch on a tight leash…

… or safely inside during any festivities that might make him anxious or confused. Even if your dog is surrounded by well-intentioned people at your backyard barbecue, being in a crowd might trigger his fight-or-flight instincts, says Liz Jefferis, executive director at Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. He may jump over the fence, go through a rotted panel or even dig his way out the house. “It’s amazing what a terrified dog can do,” adds Sinnott.

The same advice applies to other folks’ festivities. Only bring your pup to a party “if you’ll be able to keep a close eye on him,” advises Sinnott.

Related: How to Keep Your Pooch Safe at the Dog Park

Watch her mouth

More specifically, watch what she puts into it. Hazards abound for hounds at outdoor parties — especially cookouts.

  • Table scraps. Where there’s people food, there’s probably something that will upset a dog’s stomach or make him very sick. One slip-up can bring on severe indigestion or diarrhea, especially in older animals. Even on July Fourth, Fido’s diet should consist only of his regular kibble or canned food.
  • Bones. That meaty T that’s left after you finish your steak may look like the perfect dog treat, but you should never give a dog a bone — raw or cooked. “A bone or sliver of bone can get lodged in an animal’s throat or esophagus,” says Sinnott. “And if a bone makes it to a dog’s stomach it can get lodged in the small intestine."
  • Corncobs and sandy grease. Many of the dogs Sinnott has seen in the emergency room on Independence Day are there because they ingested corncobs or grease-laden sand at a beachside barbecue. “People throw corncobs in sand, dogs eat them and almost always need surgery to have them removed,” she says. “Also, barbecuers often dump grease in sand, which a dog will chew because it tastes like hamburger.” Sand and grease can cause pancreatitis, intestinal abrasion and even intestines perforation.
  • Alcohol. Booze can cause weakness, a coma or worse in a dog. Sinnott remembers one poor pooch who came into the emergency hospital disoriented and smelling like booze. It turned out the dog had eaten the rind of a watermelon that had served as a bowl for vodka-spiked punch.

Beware bug spray and sunscreen

Swallowing any of these can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. DEET sprayed on an animal can cause neurological problems. To protect your pet from fleas, ticks and other bugs, use a treatment that’s made for animals.

Related: Is It Safe to Buy Pet Medication Online?

Keep Fido away from citronella candles and mosquito coils, as well. These can produce stomach irritation and central nervous system depression if ingested.

Don’t pimp your pooch with patriotic bling

Glow jewelry isn’t very toxic to dogs, but if your pup chews on a necklace and bracelets or ingests a piece of a glow stick, he could suffer a gastrointestinal irritation, intestinal blockage and excessive drooling, according to the ASPCA. If you want to deck your dog out for the Fourth of July, stick with a bandana or a special red-white-and-blue collar or leash. 

Daniela Caride is a freelance writer who has four cats and two dogs. She blogs about being a pet parent at and founded a nonprofit called Phinney's Friends.