Long, relaxing days in the summer sun…they’re what so many of us long for all winter long. And while classic summertime activities might be just what the doctor ordered for you, the expert veterinarians at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) warn some summer favorites can spell danger for our furry friends.
"Most people love to spend the warmer days enjoying the outdoors with friends and family, but it is important to remember that some activities can be dangerous for our pets," says Camille DeClementi, VMD, senior director at the ASPCA. "By following a few simple rules, it is easy to keep your pet safe while still having fun in the sun."
Prevent potential problems
A visit to the veterinarian at least annually for a checkup is a must. Your pet should be on a regular, year-round heartworm preventive. Also, ask your veterinarian about recommendations for an effective flea and tick preventive, especially if your pet will be accompanying you on hikes or frolicking in longer grasses and open space.
Watch for signs of overheating
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so be sure they have access to plenty of fresh, clean water and adequate shade when the temperature rises. During excessive heat, your pets should be inside with you, and be careful not to over-exercise them. Signs of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rates, drooling, mild weakness, and stupor or even collapse. Seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting, along with an elevated body temperature of more than 104 degrees, might also be present. If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, get help from your veterinarian immediately.
Know your animal
Animals with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since panting is not as effective for them. These pets, along with senior animals, overweight animals, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned areas as much as possible.
Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle
"On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time—even with the windows open—which could lead to fatal heatstroke," says Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City. Also, leaving pets unattended in cars during extreme weather is illegal in several states.
Make a safe splash
Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool; not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices while on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his or her fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.
"During warmer months, the ASPCA sees an increase in injured animals as a result of high-rise syndrome, which occurs when pets—usually cats—fall out of windows or doors and are seriously or fatally injured," says Murray. "Pet owners need to know that this is completely preventable if they take simple precautions." Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.
Feel free to trim longer hair on your dog, but never shave your dog: The layers of dogs' coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. Be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product used on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.
When the temperature is high, don't let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your pooch's body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads are susceptible to burn. Limit midday walks and opt for early morning and late evening strolls, instead.
Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Keep citronella candles, oil products, and insect coils out of pets' reach as well.
Taking Fido to a backyard gathering? Remember: The food and drink offered to guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets; they can cause intoxication, depression, and comas. Similarly, remember that the snacks enjoyed by your human friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, and products with the sweetener xylitol.
Fireworks aren’t “petriotic”
Leave your four-legged friend at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around your pet. Exposure to lit fireworks can result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances, such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic, and other heavy metals.