July 4th is no picnic for pets. Emergency visits to the vet go up 48 percent on the holiday, according to data provided to CNBC. Fireworks, barbecues, long drives on the highway and pool parties all might be fun for people, but end up being a nightmare for pets—and eventually their owners' wallets.
The data come from Sikka Software, a company that sells practice optimizer software. It's installed in more than 2,000 veterinary offices across the country—representing about 5 percent of the entire nation's vets. That gives them a very strong sample set to collect their data and know on aggregate how the country's vets are performing. In particular, July 4 is the third most disruptive day of the year—following only Christmas and New Year's Day.
"People are traveling with their pets and are out and about in strange places," said Dr. Larry Rothe, a vet in Concord, California. "Lakes and mountains are not usual places for pets."
Taking into account the offices that will be open on July 4th itself, or the next business day, the data suggest that vets make approximately $71 million more in increased revenue as a result of the July 4 holiday, on that day specifically and in the following few days.
The average invoice per visitor skyrockets to more than $2,200 on July 4, compared to a normal $766 during the rest of the month.
"Pet owners should consider some type of pet insurance, which might be a worthwhile investment," said David Evans, senior vice president of IIABA, a trade association representing independent insurance agents.
"Some of the policy waiting periods could be as long as 14 days before coverage kicks in," said Evans. "This is done so pet owners don't wait for an illness or emergency to happen and then sign up for an insurance company to pay the bills." But there might be some hope with a true emergency, "In the case of an accident, the coverage can start within 24 hours of when the policy is bound."
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"Food poisoning is common for animals around the holidays," said Dr. Thomas Haas, who owns an emergency practice in Watsontown, Pennsylvania. He corroborated the data, saying, "Holiday weekends are busier than typical evenings and weekends."
"We see a surge of gastrointestinal upset cases after the holidays," said Dr. David Fernandez, a vet in San Antonio. "There are many cases of visitors to the home giving human food to the pets, and we always have our G.I. support products in supply if necessary."