Memorial Day weekend is filled with fun, festive celebrations with your loved ones, including your furry best friends. And with many of these celebrations and events take place outside (including backyard BBQs), it’s important to consider holiday pet safety.
We spoke with a vet about the cat and dog safety tips pet parents should keep in mind this Memorial Day weekend, from protecting pets from the heat to helping calm them down when the fireworks go off.
Protect Your Pet From the Sun
Memorial Day is the unofficial first day of summer. While everyone—dogs and humans alike—enjoys the warmer weather, it’s important to remain mindful of sunny-weather risks.
Since it’s probably been a while since your shoulders saw the sun, you’ll likely apply sunscreen to your body. Similarly, consider protecting your kitty or pooch’s skin, especially if they have short hair, white or light-colored hair, a pink nose, or a hairless belly (the sun can reflect off the ground, burning the belly).
Their noses, ear rims and stomachs in particular can get a severe sunburn without adequate protection. Symptoms include red, dry or cracked skin.
To avoid a cat or dog sunburn, use a sunscreen specifically formulated for pets. A cat or dog sunscreen, like My Dog Nose It! Sun Protection Balm, is made with ingredients that are safe for your pet’s skin.
Keep Your Pet Hydrated
The signs and symptoms of dehydration in dogs and cats include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth and gums
How to find out if your pet is dehydrated:
Skin tenting is a simple way to see if your pet dehydrated: Gently pinch the skin over your pet’s shoulders and pull up. If the skin is slow to return to its normal position, your pet may be dehydrated.
The signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs include the following:
- Excessive panting
- Reddened gums
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased body temperature
The signs and symptoms of heatstroke in cats include the following:
- Rapid pulse and breathing
- Very red tongue and mouth
If you suspect your hot cat or dog is overheating while playing outside:
- Bring them into the shade or inside immediately.
- Once in a cool area, provide them with cool water to drink.
- If their symptoms worsen, contact your veterinarian.
Protect Their Paws from Hot Pavement
“The pavement can be hot and burn pads,” Dr. Coger says. “If you can't hold your hand on the pavement or sidewalk for 5 seconds, it is too hot to walk your dog on.”
To protect your pup’s paws:
- Use booties: Have your pet wear boots on their walks. If footwear is a first for your pooch, show them the booties, then give a treat. Next, touch their feet with the booties, then give a treat. If they allow you, finally, put on the boots.
- Use protective wax: If your dog isn’t a fan of booties, shield their paws with a protective wax, like Musher’s Secret Paw Protection Natural Dog Wax.
Before walks, prepare yourself with water, a travel dog bowl (like the Frisco Silicone Collapsible Travel Bowl with Carabiner), poop bags and some treats for rewarding your pet for being a good citizen. This way, you and your pup are prepared for any excursion.
Keep Your Pet Calm During Fireworks and Other Loud Noises
Nervous pets are more likely to bite, act out and run off. So, keep your pets securely inside or within your gated yard during loud events, like a firework show. This ensures that your beloved pets cannot bolt off if they get scared. Surrounding your pets with familiar smells and objects also can calm them while dealing with stressful loud noises and commotion.
If your cat or dog is showing signs of stress, it’s best to remove them from the situation entirely. There also are calming aids available to help your pet feel relaxed during busy and noisy events.
Here are signs of stress in pets (but keep in mind that they can also be easily confused with other illnesses, so speak to your vet if you notice any of the following symptoms):
- Loss of appetite, retching, increased stool production, or diarrhea
- Excessive shedding or over-grooming
- Panting or excessive vocalizing
- Increased sleeping or hyperactivity
- Destructive behavior
- Accidents in the house
- Acting especially clingy or avoidance
To help calm your pet, try the following:
The ThunderShirt gently hugs them to provide a calming effect. You can also try calming chews. Vibeful Calming Melatonin Soft Chews Calming Supplement contains melatonin, passionflower, chamomile and valerian root to help reduce a dog’s stress and anxiety.
There also are calming chews, like PetHonesty Dual Texture Calming Chews Supplement, that use L-Theanine and thiamine to calm their nerves. Additional options are Sentry’s calming collar or Feliway cat spray, which both use pheromones to calm kitties in high-stress situations.
For small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs...
Consider covering part of their cage, so they can hide away. Or, move their enclosure into a quieter part of the backyard or garden. Learn more about stress in small pets.
Don’t Let Your Pet Get Lost
If you’re enjoying your holiday with pets at a crowded park or rowdy backyard party, be mindful of the risk of your dog getting lost.
“Many dogs do not enjoy big crowds, parades and fireworks,” says Dr. Coger. “If you take your dog to these types of events, make sure they are comfortable, well-trained and wearing a secure collar and leash.”
And at home, a guest might leave the back gate open or your pup could slip their collar in a moment of excitement. So, make sure your pet is wearing identification.
There are a variety of identification options, including pet microchips and ID tags. You can also use a GPS tracker, like an Apple AirTag or the Chipolo ONE Spot Finder, to track your pet’s location on your phone. Regardless of what you choose, your dogs and cats need some form of identification, so they can come home quickly and safely.
Another important consideration when at a party with pets is that some people fear dogs, and others might not know how to approach an unfamiliar pup.
“It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone likes dogs at holiday events,” Dr. Coger says. “Do not allow your dog to approach people, and be prepared for people to try to pet your dog without asking.”
Beware the Buffet
Eating new and strange food can cause digestive upset in dogs and cats, triggering vomiting and diarrhea. Some human food is downright toxic to pets—including large amounts of chocolate and processed foods sweetened with xylitol.
“Raiding the trash is a very common occurrence,” Dr. Coger says.
Cats can be equally sneaky when it comes to swiping a tasty snack, so keep an eye on them and place food in difficult-to-reach places.
The following summer BBQ foods can be toxic to pets:
- Uncooked meats
- Chicken wings and bone-in meat
- Fatty and fried foods
- Macadamia nuts
- Salsa and guacamole
- BBQ sauce
- Grapes and raisins
- Chips and pretzels
- Corn on the cob
- Xylitol-containing products
Before heading to or hosting a Memorial Day party, make sure your pet’s tummy is full with his normal food, and keep a sharp eye on them when you arrive.
More on pet stress and anxiety: