Firework Toxicity in Dogs

Box of firecracker casings

Jim Green / Getty Images

Loud noise-causing anxiety is not the only concern for your dogs when it comes to fireworks. Although the loud noises of fireworks cause your dog anxiety, another concern is the toxicity of any ingested fireworks.

The most common concern that dog owners are familiar with during any holiday that includes firework displays is the response to the loud noises that cause anxiety. Dogs may react to the noises by drooling, shaking, or pacing. If your dog has a phobia of loud noises, the reaction may be much more severe. 

Some dogs may try to escape the area they are in to try and move away from the noise. Their escape attempts may include trying to get through doors by chewing holes in them or breaking glass in windows. If they get outside, they often run away from their home. They could get lost and if found by animal control, they may be collected. Dogs that are not used to being outside may not have the experience to avoid roads and could potentially be hit by a car.

Dogs that are too nearby when fireworks are set off can suffer direct or indirect burns, especially inside their mouth if they try to eat a firework that is hot or still lit. The gunpowder can also cause irritation to the eyes.

In addition to these issues, the ingestion of fireworks is another serious concern. Fireworks contain toxic ingredients so dog owners need to be aware of the signs of toxicity and ways to treat it. 

Warning

Fireworks use gunpowder which contains potassium nitrate, carbon, and sulfur as a propellant. They also contain coloring agents which have toxic and dangerous heavy metals.

What is Firework Toxicity?

Toxicity is the damage an organism suffers from a chemical substance or substance mixture that is harmful to the organism. There are ingredients in fireworks that are toxic to animals. When ingested, there are different reactions that can occur that will make your dog ill.

Fuel 

  • Combined with oxidizer to cause the combustion

Oxidizer

  • Combined with fuel to cause the combustion
  • Chlorates

Gunpowder

  • Used as a propellant

Colorizing heavy metals

  • Barium
  • Aluminum
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Lithium
  • Mercury
  • Salts
  • Antimony
  • Copper
  • Strontium

The chlorate in the oxidizer used for combustion produces oxygen cells that will bind with red blood cells in your dog. The oxygen increases the acidity of the blood cell causing the iron in the blood’s hemoglobin to rust. This condition is called methemoglobinemia and it prohibits the oxygen from going to the heart and brain. The spleen destroys the affected red blood cells that are going to the kidneys, but the kidney’s filter process stops working due to being plugged up by the red blood cells. This problem can cause your dog’s kidneys to fail which may lead to death.

The coloring agents for fireworks are heavy metals that can be dangerous for a dog. For example, cadmium will cause damage to the kidneys. The brain and nervous system can be negatively affected if barium is ingested. Arsenic causes internal bleeding which shows up in vomit and diarrhea.

Signs of Firework Toxicity in Dogs

If you notice your dog’s gums are discolored and brown, this could be a sign that methemoglobinemia has started. Mucus from the eyes and nose as well as urine can also be tinted brown when this begins.

Your dog may experience pain in their abdomen along with bloody vomit and diarrhea which signals arsenic poisoning. Also, look to see if their skin is discolored yellow; this is a sign of jaundice which signals kidney failure. Seizures and shallow breathing are additional indications that your dog has a large number of toxins in their system.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Exposed to Fireworks

Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these signs in your dog or if you know your dog has ingested fireworks. The severity effects from the toxicity of what the dog has eaten will depend on exactly what was eaten, how much was eaten, and when the dog ate it. If your dog is exhibiting mild symptoms, your vet may initially suggest some home remedies to try.

Hydrogen peroxide will cause an animal to vomit which may be enough to rid their body of the toxins. However, you should NEVER induce vomiting in your dog unless specifically told to do so by your vet. Vomiting can sometimes do more harm than good.

If your dog ingested a large number of toxins or is showing signs of extreme distress, hospitalization may be necessary. Intravenous fluids and medication might be administered to try and prevent serious and permanent damage to organs.  

How to Prevent Firework Toxicity

The easiest way is to keep your dog on a leash with you or inside away from the celebrations so he cannot get close enough to be burned or affected by the smoke or flash of gunpowder as the fireworks explode. After the show is over, make sure to pick up all the trash from setting off fireworks. Anything left on the ground could contain the toxins discussed and cause problems from discomfort to serious organ damage for your dog.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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