Summer Pet Safety
Those of us who have pets know how important they are in our lives. As the summer months approach and the heat rises, we must make sure that we prepare for our pet’s safety and health. Just as humans take precautions to make warm weather safer, we must do the same for our pets. This will ensure that they are happy and healthy and can continue to bring joy to our lives.
As the heat rises, many of us become uncomfortable. Many of the things that we do to ensure our own comforts need to be applied to the comforts of animals as well. We have to remember that the heat can take a toll on an animal’s well being. If it is hot for you, it is most likely even hotter for your pet. Many animals, including cats and dogs, cannot sweat like people do. You may have noticed dogs panting when it is hot. This is their way of expelling heat from their bodies; they breathe out the heat through the moisture in their breath. If we do not provide a safe, summer environment for them, their process for cooling off is often not enough to prevent heat stroke and can even lead to death.
Some animals are more sensitive to the heat than others, including the following: older pets, puppies, kittens, overweight animals, pets with respiratory or heart problems, pets with short muzzles, pets who have a tendency to over-exert themselves, pets with dark fur and pets with thick fur. These animals may be extra sensitive to hot weather, but ALL animals should be provided with the absolute essentials for summer time weather.
Every pet that is in an outdoor situation should have access to plenty of shade and water. Even if they have this, pets need to be checked on often and given a break from the heat as frequently as possible. Some signs that your pet may be struggling with the heat are: rapid breathing, loud panting, anxious or vacant expression, staggering, listlessness, excessive drooling, dark or bright red tongue or gums, body temperature of 104-110 F degrees, and bloody diarrhea or vomiting. This is not a comprehensive list of all negative signs, however, so watch your pet closely to ensure their safety. If your pet does seem to need cooling off, bring them to a cool or shady area and help them cool off by sponging them off with cool (not cold, as cold may shock) water, offer your pet ice cubes to lick and Pedialyte to restore electrolytes. If heatstroke is suspected, contact your veterinarian immediately. If in doubt or if you have questions about your pet’s hot weather behavior, PLEASE call your vet for advice and help as soon as possible.
There are definite DOs and DON’Ts of summer pet safety – review them carefully below (AKC, MSNBC).
· Do not leave your pet in a parked car on a warm, sunny day. On a 70-degree day, temperatures inside the car can reach over 150 degrees in a matter of minutes, even if you leave the windows cracked open.
· Do not leave your pet chained up in your yard, limiting their access to shade, movement, and cool water. This can leave your pet vulnerable to heat stroke, sunburn, and extreme discomfort. Pets cannot survive hot weather without the ability to move around, find ample shade, escape from the heat, and have plenty of fresh water available.
· Do not exercise with your pet in the hot parts of the day. Try to schedule walks, runs, etc. that involve your pet before 7 AM or after the sun has started to go down at night. The key is to wait until the air and the ground temperatures have cooled. We have to remember that while we have shoes on, animals have sensitive pads on their feet that can burn on hot asphalt or sand. We can also alter our clothing to help us stay cool while animals cannot. Please remember that just because your dog/other animal is willing to be out exercising with you does not mean they are not suffering the heat. Many will push through to make you happy and stay with you all while they are damaging their health in the heat. You must make the safe decision for them.
· Do not forget that sand can be strenuous. Beaches are a fun place to be, but make sure if your pet is out of shape, that you start them slowly with on the sand exercise. Running on sand can be strenuous and cause injury to pets that are not used to it. Start slowly with slower, shorter walks and increase to your pet’s ability.
· Do not use air travel with your pets during extreme weather seasons, whenever possible. When pets are checked onto an airplane, the animal is exposed to extremely hot temperatures for an extended period time. Baggage compartment temperatures are regulated during the flight, but the temperatures soar into the 80s-90s when the plane is on the ground. Also, many animals have to sit on the searing pavement as they wait to be loaded as baggage. Check with the airline for their procedures to ensure your pet’s safety if you must travel with your pet during hot weather.
· Do ensure that ALL pets have plenty of cool and clean water to drink (keep in mind that if you would not drink it, why should your pet). Cool and clean water is essential during the hot weather season. When we need extra beverages to help us cool off, your pet needs even more.
· Do provide outdoor pets with lots of shady places to rest. If it is really hot, think about getting one of those inexpensive hard-plastic shallow kids wading pools and keep it filled with clean water to help pets keep cool.
· Do provide shelter other than a doghouse. Doghouses are NOT good shelters during the summer months as they trap heat and do not provide a cool place for your animals.
· Do bring your pet inside. Animals should not be left outside unsupervised on long, hot days, even in the shade. Shade can move throughout the afternoon, and pets can become ill quickly if they overheat, so keep them inside as much as possible.
· Do help your pets stay cool by wetting their fur with towels or sponges.
· Do give your pet a haircut. Longhaired animals often appreciate a summer-time haircut. The less hair will help them stay cooler. Also, if your pet has several tangles and mats, the fur can trap in too much heat and needs to be trimmed. Just be careful not to cut too close to the skin so you do not cut them, nor leave them susceptible to sunburns. It may be something many do not think about, but animals ARE susceptible to sunburns.
· Do watch out for sunburns. Though all that fur helps protect her, your pet can get sunburned, particularly if she has light skin and hair. Sunburn in animals can cause problems similar to those it can cause in people, including pain, peeling, and skin cancer. So keep your pet out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and when you do go out, rub a bit of sunblock on unprotected areas like the tips of her ears, the skin around her lips, and the tip of her nose.
· Do watch out for antifreeze. Hot weather may tempt your pet to drink from puddles in the street which can contain antifreeze and other chemicals. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that animals like, but it is extremely toxic. When you are walking your pet, make sure she does not sneak a taste from puddles.
These are just some of the summer time Dos and Don’ts for the safety and well-being of our beloved pets. Do your absolute best to help keep all of our pets happy and healthy for as long as possible. Here are some additional tips for the overall health of our best friends.
Vaccinations: Make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date, especially since dogs tend to stay outdoors longer and are more likely to come into contact with other animals more during the summer months.
Water Safety: Many people assume that dogs love the water. Most dogs enjoy swimming, but some cannot swim, and others may hate the water. Be conscious of your dog's preferences and skills before trying to make him swim. If you are swimming for the first time with your dog, start in shallow water and coax him in by calling his name. Encourage him with toys or treats; or, let him follow another experienced dog he is friendly with. Never throw your dog into the water. If your dog begins to paddle with his front legs, lift his hind legs and help him float. He should quickly catch on and keep his back end up. Swimming can be exhausting, so do not let your dog overdo it. If swimming in the ocean or river, be careful of strong tides. If you have your own pool, make sure your dog knows where the stairs or ladder are located. Even a good swimmer can drown due to exhaustion if he cannot figure out how to get out of a pool. Teach your pet where the pool steps are and consider placing a cone or a stick with a little flag on it by the pool steps so he has a highly visible marker of the exit. You can also teach dogs to climb out using a pet ramp such as the Skamper Ramp. Be sure that pool covers are firmly in place; dogs have been known to slip in under openings in the covers and drown. As an extra precaution, they can wear a doggie life vest. Most importantly, please, never leave your dog unattended in water.
Garage and Garden Safety: Make sure that you restrict your pet's access to lawns or gardens that have been recently sprayed with fertilizers or insecticides as these can be poisonous to animals, too.
Parasite Prevention: In the summer, mosquitoes (which can carry heartworm disease), fleas, ticks, and other parasites are out in full force. Be sure to talk to your vet about preventives such as Frontline and Heartgard to protect your pet, and in turn, your family, from parasites carried into your home by your pet. Make sure to keep your pet well groomed. This is helpful because it allows you to quickly and easily find any potential parasites on your pet.
Beware of Open Windows: When the weather warms up, people tend to open their windows. This can be an enticing spot for your pet to sit and enjoy the fresh air and watch the world go by. Whether you live in a house or in a high-rise apartment, make sure to put in sturdy screens to prevent your from pet escaping or from slipping and injuring itself in a fall.
If we take the time to make sure that our pets are healthy and happy, we ensure that our own lives a bit happier because we share our lives with theirs. Animals and pets are a huge part of our lives, and we need to be educated and aware of the dangers that encroach upon them. It is up to us to take these small, easy steps to ensure their continued health. Join us in making the lives of our world’s pets safer.