Summertime can be as much fun for your pet as it is for you. But pet owners need to take some precautions to keep their animal companions happy, cool and safe during the dog days of summer. Pet expert Andrea Arden offers these important hot-weather tips.
Many of the safety concerns we have for ourselves during the hottest months of the year also apply to our pets. Consistent use of sunscreen in order to avoid sun damage is as important for our pets as it is for us. This is especially important if your pet has short hair, white fur or pink skin. Talk to your veterinarian about choosing a sunscreen (most important to apply on ears and nose) and be sure to limit your pet's sun exposure.
Limiting and supervising time outdoors during the hottest hours of the day is also important for your pets because when it's hot for you, it's probably even hotter for them. Dogs aren't as efficient at cooling down as we are, since they release most of their body heat only through the pads of their feet and by panting. Be especially careful with dogs that have short, pushed-in faces (e.g., bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers), puppies and elderly pets. Early-morning and evening hours are best for outdoor playtime, and be sure to provide plenty of water and even ice cubes. As an added precaution, you can soak a bandanna in water and let it cool in the refrigerator before putting it around your dog's neck. Cooling vests such as the one from HelpingUdders.com($99 - $129) are also a great way to help your pet avoid overheating.
If you use fertilizers or other chemicals on your lawn or garden, make sure your pet doesn't have access to these potentially toxic substances. Car antifreeze is also potentially life-threatening to pets and may leak from an overheating car. Keep your pet away from what to them is a sweet-tasting, but possibly toxic substance such as this.
If you're lucky, you and your pets will get to spend some time cooling down near water, whether a pool, lake or the ocean. But even dogs who are good swimmers need to be protected around water. If you have a pool, keep in mind your dog might jump in and not be able to figure out how to get out, so just as with children, never leave a pet unsupervised around water. This is especially true if you have a pool cover on, because pets can get caught under it. As an extra precaution your pet can wear a dog life preserver such as the ones from Hunterk9.com ($21 - $27) when enjoying supervised playtime in or near water. The Pool Patrol Alarm from Hunterk9.com ($149.95) is also a great precaution to have in your pool. It will alert you if anything that weighs more than 9 lbs. falls into your pool.
Mosquitoes, ticks, heartworm and other bugs and parasites are out in full force in the summer, and they can infect your dog or cat and cause potentially serious medical issues. Your pet might also carry these bugs and parasites into your home, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian about a preventative, such as those from Sergeants.com($7.49-$9.99), that will protect your pet and your family.
Many summer travel plans are appropriate for pets to join in on the fun. But, just like we need to be safely secured in a car, so do our pets. They should travel in an appropriately sized crate or in a harness secured to a seat belt. Also, be especially careful not to leave your pet unsupervised in a car, even for just a moment, as animals can quickly overheat.
Many animals don't react well to the storms that are common in summer. They may have a response to the change in air pressure or to the sound of thunder. Be sure to teach them to have a place they can safely rest, such as a crate from Petmate.com, ($26.99 - $199.00). If you consistently feed your pets their meals in there, they'll learn to love it and see it as a reassuring place when they feel stressed. Herbal remedies such as Rescue Remedy and over-the-counter products such as Content-Eze from Sergeants.com, ($16.95), which contains trytophan (the same amino acid that makes us feel relaxed after ingesting turkey), may also help calm your pet.
If you take the proper precautions, you and your pets should enjoy a wonderful summer. But, if you suspect your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, contact your veterinarian immediately. Some signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, bright-red tongue and gums, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and body temperature of 104-110F degrees.
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