Summer is the season for parties, vacations and relaxation. It’s the time of year for fun and good vibes. But because you want to share the summer with your pets, it can’t exactly be carefree. There are dangers and health hazards that summer has in store for your animal companions if you’re not careful. They’re on the road, in the grass and at the beach. We’ll help you navigate the risks so you and your pet can enjoy a safe and healthy summer.
Heat stroke should be every pet owner’s first concern during the summer. Dog owners ought to be particularly vigilant about heat stress when they walk their dogs or let them outside, but all pet owners should ensure their pets remain cool and hydrated.
–Keep your pet indoors as much as possible, and turn on your air conditioning.
–Be sure shade is available to your pet if you let it outside. A kiddie pool is even better.
–Try to walk your dog in the early morning and evening, when temperatures outside are coolest.
–Cool water is better for your pet to drink than cold water. Cold water constricts blood vessels and can impede body cooling.
–Don’t shave your pets. It may seem counterintuitive, but shaving your pet’s fur may make it more difficult to cool off.
–Never leave a pet alone in a car.
Your pet’s coat does a lot to protect its skin from the sun, but sunburns can and do happen, especially on areas of your pet’s body that are bare, or where fur isn’t thick. Sunscreen should be applied to noses, ears, paw pads and even tummies. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in dogs, and the second most common cancer in cats, so protect your pet’s skin from risk. Also note that white or pale-colored pets are more susceptible to sunburns. And again, don’t shave your pets. Doing so increases the risk of sunburn.
Summer means swimming pools and beaches, and it’s natural that you’d want to take man’s best friend along for the fun. But remember that water safety should be your priority if Fido is with you, because beaches and pools present hazards. Drowning is the first. Not all dogs can swim, so don’t have so much fun that you lose track of your dog. Make sure that if he’s swimming, he’s swimming safely, and you’re by his side. In the ocean, currents can drag your dog into danger just like they can do to humans, so don’t let your pooch swim out too far (and don’t show off your cannon of an arm when you throw that tennis ball for him to chase). Also keep him from drinking saltwater from the ocean or chlorinated water from a pool. And if you’re taking your dog on a boat, you should both wear life jackets. Read more tips in our “Swimming Dogs” edition of “Dogs Decoded.”
FLEAS, TICKS AND OTHER PESTS
Fleas and ticks are a nuisance all year long, but they are especially abundant during summer. Not only that, but many pet owners spend this season taking hikes and other nature trips with their dogs by their sides, increasing their animals’ exposure to these pests. If you’re one of these owners, be extra cautious about checking for fleas, ticks, mosquito bites, etc. Hookworms and heartworms are also more prevalent in summer, so talk to your vet about worm medicine. Finally, know that summertime sees the peak of veterinarian-reported snakes bites. Depending on where you live and what activities you do with your dog, look out for venomous snakes. Learn to recognize common venomous and non-venomous snakes.
If you’re going on vacation this summer, but you don’t want to board your pet, we don’t blame you. Not because boarding facilities can’t be trusted, but because it’s no fun to spend so much time away from our pets. If you’re bringing a pet on a road trip or putting one on a plane, you should know the risks. Rule No. 1, of course, is to never leave a pet alone in a car. But even when you’re behind the wheel, your pet’s safety is a concern. Ideally, it should be secured in a crate in the back seat or rear space, depending on the style of your vehicle. Never allow a pet to roam your car freely, no matter how calm they are. Read more of our travel safety tips, and consult Kelly E. Carter’s informative pet-travel Q&As for more information.
Car safety isn’t important only when your pet is inside a vehicle. Having a pet injured or killed after being hit by a car is a tragedy no pet owner wants to endure. We don’t recommend letting any pet roam your neighborhood off-leash and unattended, but the summer vacation season is particularly dangerous for pet-related car accidents, simply because there are more cars on the road. Even if you don’t allow your dog or cat to take off on their own, escapes are possible. Make sure fences and other perimeters around your home are secure, and be sure to train your pets to know it’s not OK for them to run off on their own, and to come when called in case they get excited or scared and try to give you the slip. (Dogster)
FIREWORKS, THUNDERSTORMS AND OTHER SCARY NOISES
Many a pet owner has seen an otherwise fearless dog run and hide under a bed every Fourth of July night. The explosions of nearby fireworks and thunderclaps can be terrifying for pets, and summer is the peak season for both. You can’t control these noises, but you can help your pets get through them or any other anxious situations. Have distractions like toys and treats ready to distract your pet in case of a scary event, and use the normal and calm voice and body language he’s used to when you talk to him. Fawning baby talk may just reinforce your pet’s belief that something frightening or abnormal is happening. Read our interview with pet behavior expert Amy Shojai for more information about dealing with pet anxieties and phobias.
UNSAFE PICNIC AND BARBECUE FOOD
One of the best parts of summer is having family and friends over for backyard cookouts. We're talking lots of grilled meats, various mayonnaise-based salads and plenty of beer (if that’s your thing). Having a dog around can make a barbecue more fun for everybody, but you’ll also need to know which picnic foods are or aren’t safe to share. Fruits like berries, apples and melons are OK, and so are carrots, green beans and sweet potatoes. But chocolate, grapes, macadamia nuts and onions are big no-nos. These foods can kill your dog. Bones are a bad idea, too, because they can splinter and harm your dog’s teeth, gums or guts. Be careful about unattended food and alcohol, because you don’t want your hungry pooch stealing any scraps you don’t notice. And make sure your guests know they can share, but not without checking with you first. Read our guide to barbecue and picnic hazards for more tips.
We’ve already seen punishing heat waves throughout the country this year — so hot in certain regions that you can literally fry an egg outside. With temperatures like that, would you want to walk outside on the pavement barefoot? Probably not. Your dog probably isn’t too psyched about it either. His paw pads are sensitive, and can burn or blister. Be careful about when and where you walk your dog, and apply a balm to his pads before you go outside. If your dog’s paw pads already appear burned, apply antibacterial wash and cover the paw or paws with loose bandages. If the burn is severe, it’s time to call the vet. (ASPCA)
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FERTILIZER, PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES
Summer is the time of year for your lawn to look its most beautiful, and make your neighbors feel badly because their dead, dry lawns look like garbage next to yours. Let’s assume you took care to use only pet-friendly lawn treatments to make your grass look healthy. There’s still no telling what your neighbors — the ones whose lawns might not look like garbage — used to treat theirs. So if your cat is roaming the neighborhood or you’re taking your dog for a walk, every house in your 'burb is a potential hazard. Certain plants and flowers can poison cats and dogs, too. We don’t want you to live in paranoid fear, but you should be aware of the risks. Check out our guide to lawn hazards to learn more.