How To Protect Your Pet and Beat the Heat

Summer is upon us which means more time outside for you and your pet. The long, hot days of summer require extra attention to potential hazards for your pet. By remaining vigilant and being prepared, you can protect your pet so everyone in your family can enjoy the carefree days summer brings.

Effective preventions to guard your pet against fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites are essential during the summer months. These pesky and potentially dangerous parasites think of your pet as a summer home. They are everywhere during this season and carry tapeworms, heartworms, and diseases such as Bartonella, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and West Nile Virus. Talk to your veterinarian about the best prevention to keep your pet parasite free and healthy.

Pets are at risk for dehydration and heatstroke just like humans. Be sure your pet has plenty of shade and water when they are outdoors. Short-nosed or brachycephalic dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Pekingese, or dogs with double-thick hair are especially susceptible to becoming overheated. Take your dog for a walk in the morning or evening hours. If you take your dog on a jog or bike ride, don’t go out in the middle of the day when temperatures are their highest.

It is always safest to leave your pet at home during the summer months, when you run errands. Never leave your pet in the car when the weather is warm and definitely not on a hot day. A car parked in the shade can reach dangerous temperatures during the summer. Even on a day when the temperature is a mild 72 degrees, experiments have shown the temperature inside the car can reach 116 degrees in one hour. This is more than enough to kill a dog. The safest place for your pet is at home.

Dogs control their temperature by panting. A dog’s normal temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees so if the temperature in a car reaches 100 plus degrees, they will not be able to cool themselves. Their body temperature can quickly rise to over 107 degrees which could be fatal. Heatstroke symptoms include agitation, disorientation, heavy panting, lethargy, rapid heart beat, vomiting, and seizures. Coma and death follow. If you suspect your dog could be suffering from heatstroke, remain calm. Move them quickly to shade or indoors. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck, and chest. You can immerse them in cool, not cold, water to lower their body temperature. Give them small amounts of water or an ice cube to lick. Because heatstroke can be fatal, it is important to get your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Our pets are susceptible to sunburn. Vulnerable areas include those where there is exposed skin, areas that are white or pink, and areas where their fur is thin. Protect them by avoiding direct sunlight. You can also apply sunscreen, especially formulated for pets, to vulnerable areas.

During the summertime, it is important to be aware of plants that are poisonous to pets. All bulbs are toxic to pets. Antifreeze is deadly to pets so take special care to clean leaks on driveways or garage floors immediately. Fertilizers, cocoa bean mulch, and pesticides pose a hazard to pets. Keep your pets from wandering onto lawns where chemicals may have been used. If you think your pet ingested a toxic substance, call ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they are your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency.

Be aware when you are out walking or hiking with your dog that you may encounter wildlife. Coyotes, raccoons, and skunks pose a danger to your pet. Always be alert for these critters.

Summer grasses with foxtails and burrs can potentially harm your pet. They can become caught in paws or fur working their way into or through skin. Check your pet’s fur and paws to ensure they are free of these items after being outside.

As much as your pet enjoys being your co-pilot on summer drives with the windows down, please consider their safety. Every year thousands of dogs are injured or killed from jumping or falling from a vehicle. Even if your car windows are closed, it is possible for your pet to be thrown and possibly injured, if you suddenly step on your brakes. The back seat is the safest spot for your pet. They should wear a safety harness or ride secured in their pet carrier. Cats should always be placed in their carrier when riding in the car. They will feel safer and are secure when you open your car door. If your pet is loose, they could distract you causing harm to both you and your pet. If your dog must ride in a truck bed, always use a carrier or safely secure them to prevent injuries.

Preparation is important. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with identifying information should they become lost. Microchipping is a safe and effective way to protect your pet if they get loose. Keep a first aid kit on hand for emergencies. There are special kits available specifically for cats and dogs or you can make your own.

Everyone, including our pets, enjoy relaxing during the summer. Being aware of and prepared for the potential hazards the warm weather presents to your pet, will allow you and your pet to kick back, relax, and enjoy all that summer brings. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!


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