Summer is a time for the whole family, including our pets, to enjoy the great outdoors. However, just as there are safety precautions to ensure warm-weather safety for humans, there are precautions to make sure pets stay safe and happy.
Many of the safety concerns we have for ourselves during the hottest months of the year also apply to our pets. Hot weather makes us all a little uncomfortable. But when it's hot for you, it is probably even hotter for your pet — especially if it has a dark coat, a short muzzle (brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs and pugs), is in its elder years, or has a tendency to overexert itself. Dogs aren't as efficient at cooling down as we are, since they release most of their body heat through panting and the pads of their feet.
Decrease the risks of letting your pet enjoy the outdoors in summer with these tips:
- Adjust their exercise routine by taking them out for playtime in the early morning and evening hours. This is especially important if your dog is your jogging partner. While you can alter the type of clothing you wear, your dog can't. Many dogs will keep running to stay with you, even if they are suffering due to the heat.
- Be cautious when walking your dog on pavement (which can get very hot and may burn your pet's paws) and at the beach. Running on sand is strenuous and can cause injury to a pet that is out of shape. Start with slower, shorter walks and gradually increase according to your pet's ability and health.
- Provide your pet with plenty of water.
- Try a simple keep-cool tactic such as soaking a bandanna in water and putting it in the freezer before you put it on your dog to wear on a walk.
- Make sure your pet has plenty of access to a shady area to rest when outdoors. During supervised playtime in the yard your pet might enjoy access to a child's wading pool to cool off in.
Perhaps most important, be sure never to leave your pet unsupervised in a car. Not only are they are susceptible to being stolen, but even on a mild day a car can heat up quickly and your pet could suffer heatstroke.
Signs of heatstroke
Some of the signs of heatstroke include (but are not limited to): excessive panting; rapid breathing; excessive drooling; dark or bright red tongue or gums; staggering; body temperature of 104-110 F degrees and bloody diarrhea or vomiting. If heatstroke is suspected, contact your veterinarian immediately. Offer your pet ice cubes to lick, Pedialyte to restore electrolytes and apply rubbing alcohol to its paws. If you apply water, be sure it is cool and not very cold, which could cause shock.
Most of us are aware that we need to use sunscreen everyday in order to avoid sun damage. The same may hold true for your pet, especially if it has short hair, white fur or pink skin. Limit your dog's sun exposure during the day and talk to your vet about choosing a sunscreen for your pet, which is especially important on the ears and nose.
Also, shaving a pet during summer may seem like a good idea, but this can actually make it more susceptible to sunburn. If you and your vet decide shaving your pet is best, try to do it at the beginning of the summer so the hair has time to grown in a bit by the time the hottest days are here.
Be sure not to leave your pet unsupervised around water. Even a good swimmer can drown due to exhaustion if it can't 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 it 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 (www.Skamper-Ramp.com). As an extra precaution, they can wear a doggie life vest.
Garden and garage safety
Be careful to 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. Also, car antifreeze is a year-round hazard. During the warmer months your car may leak antifreeze whose sweet taste may be inviting, but is also highly toxic to pets. Consider using propylene glycol, which is a safer alternative to ethylene glycol antifreeze. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.
In 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 your family from parasites carried into your home by your pet. Keeping your pet well groomed is especially important during the summer months so you can quickly and easily find any potential parasites.
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, be sure to put in screens to prevent your from pet escaping or from slipping and injuring itself in a fall.
Many pets become stressed during summer storms due to the change in air pressure and the sounds of thunder. Calmatives such as Content-Eze (www.Sergeants.com) or Rescue Remedy may help. You should also prepare in advance by teaching your pet to rest calmly in a crate (www.Petmate.com). If pets are regularly fed their meals and offered special treats and toys when in the crate, it will become a reassuring resting spot during potentially stressful times.
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