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Dangers of Fireworks

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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There's nothing like a grand fireworks display – the sky literally on fire with magnificent colors. We love them, and we look forward to enjoying them on those special holidays or special occasions, such as New Years and the Fourth of July. And we are all aware of firework safety for people and children, but we sometimes forget that our pets should also be considered.

Fireworks become very hot very quickly. Curious pets can sniff or even attempt to ingest lit fireworks, resulting in severe burns of the face, mouth or even paws. This is most common in the ever-popular sparkler. Even if unlit, ingesting fireworks can be quite dangerous, even lethal. Fireworks contain a variety of agents including potassium nitrate. For their color effect, heavy metals are used such as mercury, antimony, copper, barium, strontium and phosphorus. Ingestion of these products can result in severe illness.

In addition, many fireworks have projectile capabilities and if used inappropriately, the ejected shell can hit the pet, causing trauma and burning. The Roman Candle is a good example of this danger.

Veterinary Care

Diagnosis

Physical examination and a history of recent exposure to fireworks is usually all that is needed to diagnose firework related illness or injury. In the case of ingestion, blood tests may be necessary to determine the effect of the fireworks on the organs and may even be able to determine the amount of heavy metal ingested.

Signs of illness or injury associated with fireworks include:

  • Burning of the mouth or skin
  • Soft tissue injury
  • Vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shallow breathing

    Treatment

    The treatment for firework-associated illness depends on the type of damage. Burns are treated by cleaning the area and administering antibiotics. Ingestion of fireworks requires more aggressive treatment.

    Animals ingesting a large amount of fireworks will need to be hospitalized. Intravenous fluids are administered as well as medications, such as sucralfate, famotidine or cimetidine, to protect the gastrointestinal tract from additional damage. Anti-vomiting medication, such as prochlorperazine, may aslso be necessary.

    Depending on the heavy metal involved, specific treatment or antidote may be available. For most, supportive care is all that is available. Most animals recover, but survival is not likely for those that swallow a large amount of fireworks or have delayed treatment.

    Preventative Care

    Keep fireworks, lit and unlit, away from your pet. If your pet is involved in the festivities, make sure he is confined on a leash or in a carrier. Don't let him play with or chase lit fireworks. If injury does occur, consult your veterinarian. There is no effective home care for firework illness or injury.

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