Whether it’s already summer or just feels like it, here are important pet care tips to keep your dogs and cats safe and healthy.
- Heatstroke: Overheating is the primary concern for dogs and cats during the summer, and heatstroke – or hyperthermia – can occur when a pet’s temperature reaches 104°F or higher. Heatstroke can be fatal, and dogs are particularly susceptible, but is preventable if caught and treated in time. Know the list of heatstroke symptoms and basic care options before your pet can be safely transported to the veterinarian.
- Flat-faced pets: Pets with short muzzles – like Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs and Persian cats – often have breathing problems. They are more prone to heatstroke since they cannot pant as effectively.
- The young, elderly and overweight: Older pets, puppies, overweight animals and those with heart, lung or other medical problems face a higher risk of overexertion and overheating. They should be kept out of the sun and heat as much as possible, and watched closely for signs of heatstroke.
- The car: Leaving your pet in the car – even with the windows cracked – can cause heatstroke, organ damage and death. Never leave your pet in the car even in slightly warm weather or for short periods of time, since the temperature in a mostly closed car rises very quickly. To educate others who might think this is a safe practice, download and share these flyers from MyDogIsCool.com. If you’re going someplace where you can’t take your pet, leave her at home.
- Cool-off opportunities: Fans, ice cubes in water bowls and pupsicle or catsicle treats are great ways to cool your pet. Do not rely primarily on fans, however, since they are less effective at cooling pets than people.
- Cool spots indoors: Air conditioning creates an ideal escape from the summer heat for both pets and humans alike, but if you don’t have air conditioning, give your pet access to cool spots in your home – like tiled floors and rooms that do not get much sun. Make sure water bowls remain full and available to your pet at all times.
- Outdoor time: A pet can easily overexert herself in hot weather. Counter this with periods of rest between play in combination with plenty of hydration. Schedule walks or outdoor play time in the early mornings – and evenings when the sun has set – rather than midday. If your pet is on a run line, make sure there are no opportunities for him to get tangled, and for any pet that spends time outdoors provide a well-built, well-ventilated dog house that provides adequate shade, as well as a generous bowl of fresh water. As a general rule, however, pets should not be outside unsupervised for any extended period of time, regardless of the weather.
- Pavement: Hot pavement can burn paw pads. Take your pet for walks in the morning or evening hours when it’s cooler, walk in the grass, or utilize dog boots or socks.
- Pet-safe sunscreen: Consider applying sunscreen on your pet’s ears and nose before taking her outside. Pets with lighter skin, and short or thin hair, are more prone to sunburn and skin cancer. Consult your veterinarian before using any sunscreen product on your pets, particularly for cats because some of these products contain ingredients that are not safe for them.
- Grooming: Trimming long hair can help keep your pet cool, but shaving can do more harm than good. The layers of a pet’s coat helps protect him from overheating and sunburn. Groom your dog or cat more regularly instead to remove loose fur that can contribute to overheating.
- Hydration: Keep fresh water readily available to your pet, both indoors and outdoors. Tap, filtered or bottled water is safer than having your pet seek alternative sources, such as puddled or ponding water, streams or runoff, all of which can contain harmful toxins. Bring extra water and a travel bowl when you’re out walking, hiking, at the beach, at a park or otherwise away from home with your pet. Never give your pet salt water, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
- Hosing down: Spraying your pet down with a garden hose is a quick way to lower her body temperature, but excess hose water heats up in the sun and can burn your pet. Let the excess water spray out, then check the temperature with the back of your hand before using on your pet.
- Kiddie pools: These can be a good backyard cooling alternative, but they heat up during the day and water needs to be replaced regularly. Empty the pool when it is not in use since still bodies of water attract mosquitoes to lay their eggs.
- Boating: Make sure your dog can swim before taking him on a boat, and invest in a canine life jacket for an added measure of protection.
- Pool and beach safety: Never leave your pet unattended by the poolside or other open bodies of water. Even capable swimmers can have accidents, and natural bodies of water have other threats, like riptides, rogue waves and undertows. Since dogs can often swim for extended distances and become too tired to return, use a brightly colored canine life vest so that you can easily spot him in open water.
Pests, allergens and toxins
- Pests: Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and tapeworms are more problematic during the summer, and all present serious health dangers to dogs and cats. Keep your pet up-to-date on preventatives and check for pests after your pet has been outside. Know how to check your pet for ticks and remove them safely.
- Allergens: Summer is prime time for allergic reactions that can cause itchiness and hot spots. Insect bites and grass allergies are common irritants, but talk to your veterinarian if your dog or cat is especially itchy, or has sores that will not heal, dandruff or bald patches. Some pets are allergic to flea bites; even a single bite from a passing flea can cause them to scratch excessively.
- Pavement puddles: Never let your pet drink water off the street. Cars leak more antifreeze than usual during the summer months, and antifreeze consumption is extremely dangerous and highly lethal for both cats and dogs.
- Grass: Keep your pet off lawns and green areas marked with fertilizer signs; eating plant food, fertilizer and insecticides can be fatal. As a general rule, it’s good to wipe down your pet’s paws after a walk or any period of time outside.
Activities & Travel
- Fireworks: Fireworks and other loud, celebratory displays can frighten and even endanger your pet. Every year, shelters take in animals that ran away from fireworks, and many dogs and cats are hit by cars when they panic, and escape the safety of their homes. Read our Fourth of July pet safety tips for ideas on how to keep your pets safe and stress-free during holiday celebrations.
- Barbecues: Bones can cause gastrointestinal irritation or obstructions, while eating fatty food scraps can be bad for your pet’s health. Other cookout staples like charcoal, alcohol and citronella all are hazardous to pets.
- Vacationing: Expert pet behaviorist and trainer Andrea Arden offers wonderful tips for traveling with your pet, including the types of pets that do best on trips and those you should consider leaving at home with a trusted sitter or boarder.
- Disasters and emergencies: The summer brings severe weather like thunderstorms, flash floods, wildfires, drought and hurricanes – and not all disasters announce themselves with time to spare. Make sure you have an emergency plan for your pet, as well as an up-to-date emergency kit in case of natural or manmade disaster.
Wishing you a pet-safe summer!