With the arrival of summer often comes vacations, cookouts and pool parties, and if you’re a pet owner, it might mean you’re bringing your pet along for a lot of the summer fun. However, when the temperature heats up, it’s important to remember the dangers to pets increase, too. To keep your dog, cat and other furry friends safe, make sure you and your pet’s caregiver are prepared and on the lookout for the top summer pet safety concerns.
Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski, associate professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, offers tips on preventing accidents and safeguarding your pet during the summer months.
With all the time you and your pet will be spending outdoors, one of the biggest summer pet safety concerns is ticks. During the summer, Rozanski recommends that you or your dog walker check your pet for ticks at least once a day and look thoroughly after walks or trips through wooded areas.
“Ticks can be harder to find on thicker coat dogs,” she says. “And dogs are often more affected than cats are.”
If you find a tick, refer to the ASPCA’s Tick Treatment and Removal instructions. Once it’s removed (usually with tweezers), “try to save it in an airtight container,” says Rozanski. “Then, ask your vet if you should bring it in for testing.”
Ticks carry a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, but symptoms are often hard to spot. Dogs may be tired, feverish or become lame. So, also talk to your vet ahead of time about effective tick medication, and only use products that are made for your type of pet.
2. Dehydration and heatstroke
Dehydration and heatstroke are very real threats when the dog days of summer are upon us. Animals should always have fresh, clean water available, whether it’s summer or the dead of winter. Carry portable water bowls on walks and bring them on vacation or long car rides. Short-nosed dogs, like pugs, Japanese chins and bulldogs, pets with dark fur or skin, animals that are overweight or ones that have thick coats (like Himalayan or Persian cats), are especially prone to heat stress. Watch out for these symptoms:
- Excessive lethargy.
- Decreased urination.
- Dry gums.
- Refusal to eat.
- Sunken eyes.
- Decreased skin elasticity (Gently pinch your pet’s skin near the shoulder up into the shape of a tent. If the skin is slow to snap back, your pet may be dehydrated).
Don’t worry if your dog pants. That’s how they cool themselves off. The hotter they are, the more they’ll pant, Rozanski says.
Other ways to cool your pup include fans, ice packs, frozen treats, ice cubes, kiddie pools and sprinklers. Your kids and dog will have a blast.
“If they seem weak or off-balance, cool them with a hose or wet towels and get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible,” Rozanski says.
3. Pools and water
Despite what YouTube may tell us, cats and rabbits don’t like to swim. “I believe most of the animals [in the videos] are not enjoying it,” Rozanski says.
And not all dogs have mastered the doggie paddle. Some may not like water, and certain breeds like pugs and terriers, may have trouble swimming. So before you bring Fido to the beach or pool, buy a flotation device to keep your pup safe (yes, dogs can wear life jackets — just make sure you’re using one made for dogs). If you are planning a boating adventure with your dog this summer, make sure he doesn’t jump overboard, which can be dangerous for animals. And never try to force your pet into the water.
If your pet enjoys splashing around, always rinse off after a swim. The chlorine, salt and bacteria in pools and lakes can be harmful. Animals should also have a shady area nearby where they can cool off and access to fresh water, as drinking salt water and pool water can cause health problems.
We’ve all thought about it. Couldn’t you leave your dog or cat in the car to run a quick errand inside a store? Well, if it’s the summer months (or anytime of year when the temperature is above 65 degrees), stop! Don’t even think about it. Not even if you’re parked in the shade. And not even if you leave your windows cracked. This summer pet safety 101.
“It’s too great a risk to your dog’s health and should not be done,” Rozanski says.
So keep your pet safe and bring them with you, or when you’re running errands, leave your pet home where they can stay in a safe temperature.
More time spent outdoors means more potential encounters with slithering serpents. Many are harmless, but sometimes a snake’s bite is worse than your dog’s bark. Protect your pet (and the rest of your family) by keeping your yard tidy. Snakes love to hide, and tall grass and piles of junk are perfect spots.
Remind kids that if they see a snake — no matter if it’s venomous or not — they should back away and leave it alone.
“If your dog is inclined to chase wild animals, get them into the house until the animal goes away,” Rozanski says.
If your cat is allowed to go outside, do a quick surveillance of your yard beforehand to make sure the coast is clear. Unfortunately, a cat or a small dog can be a perfect-sized meal for some snakes.
If a pet is bitten by a snake, its face and head will become swollen and you should call your vet right away.
Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue’s Venom Response Team specializes in dealing with snakes and snake bites. They previously starred on Animal Planet’s “Swamp Wars” and offer their own safety tips on snakes and snake bites. The ASPCA also covers what to do during a snake encounter and provides tips for treating snake bites in pets.
6. Bee stings
Buzz. Buzz. It may not be a pleasant sound to us, but it can cause your pet to investigate. And while curiosity may not kill the cat (or dog), it can get them stung. So what should you do?
“Often, nothing,” Rozanski says.
If there is a lot of swelling, call your vet, who can suggest an office visit or prescribe an over-the-counter medicine. Some OTCs are harmful to pets, though, so never dispense them on your own.
And watch how your pet responds to any swelling. If they are very irritated, they may scratch the stung area, pulling out the fur. These “hot spots” make your pet look bald. Bring your pet to the vet right away if you notice this behavior or these spots.
Ever heard the expression, “It’s so hot, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk”? Well, pavement or asphalt, especially if it’s black, can get very hot and can harm your pets’ paws.
“Think about what you’re walking on,” Rozanski says. “If you wouldn’t like walking on it with bare feet, try to limit your dog’s time on it, too.”
Talk to your dog walker about what routes to avoid in the summer. Stay away from asphalt or rough pavement, pick softer routes and schedule walks for cooler times of the day. And what about booties?
“If you think your dog will tolerate them, give them a try — but many really don’t like them,” Rozanski says.
Plus, common sense tricks, like walking in the shade, can replace the need for booties. So try that before paying for something your pup may not like.
8. Extra fur
Grooming is especially important in warmer weather. Brush your pet more often during the summer to get rid of excess or matted fur, which can weigh a pet down and contribute to overheating.
“If they seem uncomfortable because of their thick coat, for example, dogs may pant endlessly, consider taking them to a groomer,” Rozanski says.
Never cut too closely though, as a coat protects your pet from the harsh summer sun.
9. Barbecues and family cookouts
Everyone loves a cookout, especially your pet, who gets to feast on table scraps. But a little of this and a taste of that can be bad for pets — and not just for their waistlines. Some surprising foods, such as grapes, onions, garlic and raisins, can be toxic to dogs if consumed in large quantities and should stay off their menu. Grapes and raisins are safe for cats, but keep onions and garlic away from them, Rozanski says. Watch out for these barbecue favorites that can pose a problem for your pet.
“Table scraps and treats should be kept to less than 10% of a pet’s diet,” Rozanski says.
Boneless chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs are OK, but limit them to small quantities. As you know, most pets eat anything and everything, so keep an eye on what they’re indulging in. And be sure meats are not seasoned with garlic or onions, because, as previously stated, these are toxic for many animals.
Talk to any guests, especially kids, before summer parties. Politely remind them if your pet has a special diet, is allergic to anything or if there are any foods on the table that could cause a health problem. You want to enjoy the party, too, not spend it looking after a pet with an upset stomach. These particular items are just a few things to look out for:
- Meat with barbecue sauce: This slow-cooked delight can cause non-delightful diarrhea in dogs.
- Corn on the cob: Dogs often have difficulty digesting corn cobs, and this grilling staple can be a choking hazard.
- Fruits with pits: Peaches, avocados and other pitted fruit can be choking hazards.
- Food with bones: Squeaky bone that’s a toy: great. Real bones in food: not so much. Even things like bone-in wings can be very dangerous for your pet, as they may splinter and hurt their GI system, sometimes even piercing their bowels. Avoid the emergency room by not feeding your pet anything with bones.
- Foods with toothpicks or skewers: An overlooked toothpick or skewer can pierce or make a hole in the intestines.
- Ice cream: A little of any flavor is fine for some dogs, but it may not agree with all dogs, especially if they have sensitive stomachs. Just like people, some dogs can be lactose intolerant. Try one of the dairy-free recipes for dog ice cream instead.
These dangers may sound scary, but a little preparation and a watchful eye is all you need to take the heat off your summer. Get more hot weather tips from the ASPCA.