A primer on helping your dog survive the dog days of summer: Protecting your pets from summer heat
Many folks look forward to some fun in these lazy and hazy summer days, but pet owners need to know that summer days can also present some hazards for our furry companions.
“Some of the very reasons people love summer are the same reasons this season can be hazardous to a pet’s health,” says Veterinarian Dr. Link Welborn. “Pet owners can keep their companions safe and healthy with just a few easy steps.”
Keep these tips in mind to protect your pet from problems that can linger into other seasons.
Help your pet keep his cool in hot and sticky weather!
Feeling sweaty? That’s just Mother Nature’s air conditioning system for your body. But that’s one of the ways people are different than dogs – dogs don’t come with a temperature control system like ours. In the summertime heat, your pet may need a little extra care to maintain a reasonable body temperature. Remember to:
- Look for signs of heat stress: profuse panting, salivation, staring, unresponsive behavior, elevated heart rate, warm dry skin, vomiting, unsteadiness, or a deep red/purple tongue. Heat stroke can be fatal! Cool your pet’s core temp with water sprays or immersion into a tub or pool, apply ice packs to the abdomen, and call your vet as soon as you can.
- Never leave your pet in a parked car. Temps soar inside to over 100 degrees within minutes. These extreme temps can quickly cause brain damage or can even be fatal.
- Your pet needs exercise, even when it’s hot out. Take extra care with your older pet, and with breeds with thick coats or short noses. It’s best to exercise in the cooler morning or evening hours, since they may have more difficulty regulating their body temperature.
- Don’t forget the paws! Always check the temperature of the street or sidewalks before walking your pet. Asphalt can become very hot in the baking sun, and may burn your puppy’s paws. Make sure your dog has plenty of cool grass to walk on when taking them out for a summer stroll.
- If your pet is outside for long periods, make sure there is a shady spot to rest and plenty of water. It’s the perfect season to enjoy a dog house!
- Pets can get sunburned, too! Noses, ear tips, and abdomens can be sensitive. Pets with light colored fur, shaved fur (the summer haircut!) or thin fur may need sunscreen. Try the spray-on type!
- In the heat, many dogs are less active and therefore need less food. You can monitor the intake and ask your vet if you need to make a change.
- Flea and tick populations grow in the hot months. Use only prevention products recommended by your veterinarian – some can be toxic, even when used according to directions.
Your pet isn’t the only critter in your backyard!. Make sure it’s safe!
That backyard oasis can be full of hidden dangers for your pet. From pests to poisons, keep your eyes out to keep your pet safe.
- Mosquito populations soar in the warm and humid summer weather. And skeeters transmit heartworm. “Make sure your dog and your cat is current on prevention medication for this fatal disease,” says Dr. Welborn. “We see a spike in the number of cases of heartworm every summer due to the higher populations of mosquitoes. It’s a shame because this disease is preventable, but is often fatal.”
- Other bites and stings may need attention. Call your vet if you see swelling to determine if it’s an allergic reaction that needs to be treated.
- Did you know that all spider bites are toxic? Some bites can make your pet very sick. If you suspect a black widow spider bite, get help immediately.
- Pesticide use is highest in the summer. Beware – pets that ingest plant food, fertilizer, or insecticides can suffer harmful effects or death.
- Many of the plants in our yards are also toxic to our pets. Be careful of what Spot chews!
- With everyone outside more during the nice weather, pets can more easily find opportunities to explore on their own. Be sure to have a collar and ID on your pet. Consider the new digital microchip you can have inserted under the skin of your pet’s neck. It will provide a permanent record of how to contact you if your pet gets lost.
- If your pet is a swimmer, make sure it’s easy to exit from the pool – some are much easier to get into than to get out of!
- If you need to attend to your car’s coolant, be careful not to leave any spills around, or any bottles opened with fluid left. Animals are attracted to it’s sweet taste, but it’s a poison and can be fatal if ingested. Call your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has swallowed any.
Vacations can be fun for everyone – even your pet!
A little getaway can be a wonderful thing. Sometimes it’s a good idea to leave your pet at home, but some destinations and pets are a perfect match.
- Some hotels and facilities accept pets. Do your research! It takes a few minutes on the internet or on the phone to confirm.
- You may need to provide a health certificate and a medical record, so be prepared.
- Don’t forget to bring the pet’s food and water. A little bit of a regular routine can go a long way in easing travel related stress or discomfort due to new surroundings!
- Airlines will generally allow pets to travel with you, but they are subject to some temperature-related limitations. Check out your options and parameters thoroughly before you leave for the airport.
If you decide to leave your pet while you travel, ask for recommendations for reputable boarding facilities from your vet, and check it out in person before you depart. “Many pets won’t travel well. High energy pets may require more exercise than they can get while traveling, and some older animals just don’t like the changes in routine, “ says Dr. Welborn. “We find at our Pet Resort that some of our guests have such a good time during their stay with us that it seems like a second home to them. They’re much happier here than they would be if they were traveling.”
- Consider a pet sitter, instead of a kennel. Again – recommendations are important!
- Make sure to have medications refilled and an ample supply, if your pet requires them.
Whatever your summer may bring, it can be a season of fun for you and your pets, if you take the time to make sure to keep them healthy and safe.