Firework toxicity can pose a health problem to a dog that was standing or sitting too nearby when fireworks were set off. A dog can suffer burns inside its mouth if it tried eating a firework that was hot or still lit. The gunpowder in fireworks can also irritate the eyes.
What is Firework Toxicity?
Firework toxicity is the damage your dog can suffer from a chemical substance or substance mixture that is harmful to animals. If these ingredients are ingested, different reactions can occur that will make your dog ill.
Symptoms of Firework Toxicity in Dogs
Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog or if you know your dog has ingested fireworks. The severity of symptoms from poisoning will depend on exactly what type of firework your dog ate, if it was lit or unlit, how much was eaten, and when the dog ate it.
Your dog may have external burns on its face, specifically on its nose, lips, and eyes if it was exposed to gunpowder and other toxins in fireworks. Or your dog may have internal burns in its mouth or further down in its esophagus if it has ingested gunpowder or other parts of a hot or lit firework.
Brown Gums and/or Urine
If you notice your dog’s gums or urine are brown, this could be a sign that methemoglobinemia has started. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder that impairs the hemoglobin in the red blood cells from properly circulating oxygen in your dog's body. The lack of circulating oxygenated blood can cause discoloration in your dog's gums and urine.
In more severe cases, your dog's skin may become discolored yellow, which is a sign of jaundice signaling kidney failure.
Seizures and tremors are indications that your dog has a large number of toxins in its system.
Shallow breathing is another result of your dog's system trying to manage a large number of toxins in its system.
Causes of Firework Toxicity
Fireworks can contain different types of ingredients to achieve combustion, special effects, and color that can cause numerous reactions in your dog. For example, gunpowder is typically used as a fuel, and it contains potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur as the propellants. Fireworks also contain metal colorizing agents, such as barium chloride, strontium chloride, and copper chloride, all of which are toxic to humans and animals. The chemicals in fireworks can cause a host of complex and potentially fatal reactions in your dog's body to potentially cause damage to the kidneys, pancreas, brain, and nervous system.
Diagnosing Firework Toxicity in Dogs
Clinical symptoms and the timing of the illness are usually enough to diagnose that a dog has ingested parts of a firework. Your veterinarian will want to know as best as possible the type or brand of firework to determine the ingredients to decide whether or not to induce vomiting or move on to other treatments.
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. Depending on the ingredients in the fireworks, vomiting can sometimes do more harm than good to your dog.
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.
Prognosis for Dogs With Firework Toxicity
Most dogs will respond well in a few days to timely treatment. However, it may take a couple of weeks for your dog to recover from internal mouth or digestive system burns.
How to Prevent Firework Toxicity
The easiest way to prevent firework toxicity is to keep your dog on a leash with you or indoors away from the celebrations. This way your pet 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.
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.
Fireworks. Animal Poison Control Center
Hendricks, Jeanette, and Kathryn Gates. Transient Methemoglobinemia Suspected Secondary To Ingestion Of Brassica Species In A Dog. Veterinary Medicine: Research And Reports, Volume 10, 2019, pp. 37-42. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.2147/vmrr.s195458
Fear of Thunderstorms and Fireworks. University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine