As the dog days of summer quickly approach, pet owners need to be mindful that the hot temperatures and the outdoor environment can create a unique set of hazards when it comes to pet safety.
“Summer is a great time to be outdoors with your pet, but it can also put your pet in jeopardy for a number of health risks,” says Robert Misseri, President of Guardians of Rescue, an organization dedicated to helping animals in need. “Even fit, athletic dogs can suffer heat-related illnesses during the hottest days of summer.”
Here are a few tips to help protect your pet during the sizzling summer months:
· Keep your Hot Dog Cool. Dogs cannot cool themselves by sweating like humans. A dog cools himself by panting, or, sweating through the tongue. However, when the temperature rises, this is not enough. Always make fresh water available and provide a shaded area in the yard. A sprinkler or kiddie pool filled with water is a great way to offer a respite from the heat.
· Never leave a pet in a parked car. On an 85 degree day it takes only 10 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 102 degrees, climbing to 120 degrees in a half hour. Heat stroke is a serious and sometimes fatal condition, and it is believed that hundreds of dogs die each year from being left in a hot car. Be aware of the signs, which include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, and a deep red or purple tongue. If you see a dog left unattended in a car, alert the police or animal control immediately.
· Protect your pet from pests. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are more prevalent in the summertime. Talk to your vet about heart worm medication, which is spread by mosquitoes, and be vigilant about it. Also ask about the most effective ways to avoid flea and tick infestation. If you are travelling, consult your vet about any additional health threats in the area you will be visiting. Avoid lawns treated with pesticides, as they can be toxic to your pet. Walking on newly sprayed lawns, then licking those paws, can be poisonous.
· Plan ahead for your summer getaway. If you find you need to board your pet, do your homework. Visit the kennel, and make sure your pet will be treated well and safely. Ask your vet and your friends for recommendations, and check in by phone while you are away. If you are taking your pet with you, look into hotels that are pet friendly, before you leave town, and make sure you take a copy of your pet’s medical records and take your vet’s phone number with you.
· Tag your pet. If you have plans to travel this summer with or without your pet, make sure you can be contacted by creating a temporary tag with your vacation information: your name, hotel name, etc. This way, you can be notified and found immediately should you get separated, or you can have someone collect him if you are away.
· Help your pet shed his winter coat. It is never a good idea to shave your pet. Fur protects them from sunburn and helps regulate their body temperature in both hot and cold weather. Regular brushing is the best way to help your pet lose his winter coat. Work against the grain and close to the skin to catch as much of the ready-to-fall fur as possible.
· Avoid events with fireworks. More dogs go missing on July 4th than any other day of the year. They are frightening, and mysterious to your pet. If you cannot avoid them, there are many over-the-counter products that might be of some aid in relaxing your pet, or, you can ask your vet for help if your pet is especially sensitive. Sometimes a drive in the car helps, but plan ahead if that’s not an option.
· Walk after waking. To avoid the afternoon heat, take your walk during the morning hours. The hot afternoon asphalt can burn your pet’s paws. And never ride a bike or jog with your pet in tow. They cannot tell you when they might need to slow down or rest. Also, take some water in a container on your outings to avoid dehydration.
· Use sunscreen. While the sun is one of the best things about the summer months, too much can be as dangerous for your dog as it is for you. Dogs can get skin cancer too, so ask your vet about the best sunscreen (some contain ingredients that can be toxic to animals). The lighter the color of the dog, and the less hair, the more likely he is to suffer from overexposure. Around the eyes, tips of ears, nose and belly are the most common areas affected. There are also lots of natural remedies if you are out too long and he becomes burned, but prevention is the best medicine.
Summer is a great time of year, just make sure you plan ahead and take a few precautions so it can be an enjoyable one for you and your pet. If you are unsure about a situation concerning your pet and the hot months of summer, ask yourself, " is this safe for me?" If the answer is not a definitive and resounding "yes", then most likely it is not for your best friend either. With a little preparation, you will travel safely and have the peace of mind needed to truly relax and have fun, whether on two legs or four. To learn more about Guardians of Rescue, visit the site at www.guardiansofrescue.org.