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Summer pet health: Keep your pet safe

Posted on: June 13th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance enjoys the summer weather.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

It’s summertime! With rising temperatures and time off school come vacations, fun in the sun and time with family. The heat, sun and summer activities can also bring some perils, especially to the furry members of your family. While there are a number of things you can do to keep your pets healthy, like ensuring they have pet insurance, knowing the following things can help keep your pets safe this summer.

Heat stroke is a very deadly threat to pets. Heat stroke is defined as severe hyperthermia, with temperatures sometimes over 105 degrees. The animal can suffer severe internal damage to important organs, especially the brain. Dogs don’t sweat like we do, and their only means of cooling themselves is by panting. While in the right combination of circumstances any dog could potentially suffer from heat stroke, the dogs most at risk are those that have difficulty breathing, such as older dogs with underlying respiratory disease and ‘brachycephalic’ breeds.

Having pet insurance for your dog, can come in handy in unexpected emergency situations like heat stroke. And some dog insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance don’t have upper age limits, so even older dogs can enroll.

Brachycephalic syndrome describes the ‘smug nosed’ breeds, which are at the highest risk for heat stroke. These include Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzu’s and other breeds with short noses. These breeds have more difficulty breathing, and therefore have a decreased ability to cool themselves. Prevention is the key in heat stroke, as treatment can be involved and costly. Don’t walk your dog in the heat of the day, stick to the cooler mornings and evenings. Always make sure shade and water are provided. Black dogs may be at an increased risk since their fur absorbs heat.

Signs of heat stroke include rapid breathing and heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and depression. As heat stroke progresses, severe respiratory distress, grey or purple gum, seizures, and eventually collapse can be seen. NEVER douse your pet in water if you believe they are suffering heat stroke, lowering the body temperature too quickly can be lethal. Immediate veterinary attention is paramount. And because emergency visits can be costly, it’s important to research pet insurance companies that would cover this type of condition. Pets Bets Insurance reimburses 80 percent of actual veterinary costs, which can help leverage how much the pet owner can afford.

Warmer temperatures can bring parasites to pets as well. Depending on which part of the nation you live, there are risks of exposure to mosquitoes, fleas and ticks and the diseases they carry. Mosquitoes are the vector for heartworm disease, a deadly parasite that lives in the heart and can cause heart failure. Ticks can carry a variety of serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, to name a few. Tick borne disease can be difficult to diagnose and equally difficult to treat. Fleas, in addition to being unwanted in your home, can also be a factor in tapeworm infestations and are uncomfortable for pets to have. Always use a product that will protect against fleas, ticks and heartworm disease. In general these are prescription products and should be purchased through a veterinarian’s office. Some pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, offer dog insurance wellness plans that can help with the costs of routine care and parasite prevention.

Undoubtedly this summer you will probably have some family outings and trips. Hopefully your animals can be a part of these experiences also. A little common sense will go a long way in terms of keeping your pets safe. Dogs can be great companions on hikes, but make sure you bring water for them, and be mindful of things like foxtails that can cause painful paws. Water activities can be great fun for the right dog, but be cautious when introducing your dog. Not every pet will feel comfortable on a boat, for example. Invest in a life jacket made for dogs to keep them safe. A little foresight can be the key to making this a great summer for all the members of your family!

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