Common Sense Care Tips Keep Pets Safe in Summer

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Posted by Kim Campbell Thornton on 8/8/2007 in General Articles

Summertime brings fun in the sun, but it also signals potential dangers such as heatstroke, sunburn, insect stings and water hazards to dogs and cats. To ensure a safe, adventure-filled summer for your pet, we offer several ways to recognize, treat and prevent problems.

Heat and humidity affect pets, especially breeds with flat-faces — such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Persians — or pets with heavy coats. High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or the more dangerous heatstroke. Pets who are outside or enclosed in cars are most at risk of heatstroke.

Heed these signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke:

Panting excessively
Loss of consciousness

Treat early signs of heat exhaustion by pouring cool — not cold — water on the coat and working it into the hair. Loss of consciousness is an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary care.

Practice prevention by keeping your pet cool. Leave at-risk pets in air-conditioned comfort during the day. If your pet stays outdoors in hot weather, provide plenty of cool, fresh water and a shady place to rest. Be aware of how the sun travels through your yard. A spot that looks shaded in the morning may be in full sun a few hours later. Schedule walks for cool mornings and evenings.

Most importantly, never leave your pet in a car during warm months. The inside of a car heats up to more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes. Don’t be fooled by outside temperatures of 70 degrees. The temperature is a lot hotter inside a vehicle.

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Apply sunscreen when your pet goes outdoors. Dogs and cats with thin or light-colored coats are susceptible to sunburn, and cats that get sunburned are more likely to develop skin cancer. Dogs who lie on their back outdoors can get painful sunburns on their bellies, but the areas most prone to sunburn are the nose, face, and ear tips.

Purchase pet sunscreen at pet supply stores, or apply zinc oxide or PABA-free sunscreen. Avoid getting it in your pet’s eyes.

Next threat: Pests like bees, wasps, fire ants and mosquitoes can put the “p” in pain for your pets. Reactions to insect bites and stings range from slight swelling and pain to anaphylaxis — a sudden, severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. If your pet is stung, seek veterinary help right away in the event of an allergic reaction.

Mosquito bites don’t provoke a skin reaction, but they can transmit potentially fatal heartworm disease. The best way to prevent heartworm disease is by giving a heartworm preventive pill orally once a month. While some flea-control medications repel mosquitoes, it’s important to remember that they don’t prevent heartworm disease if a mosquito does bite your pet.

Third summertime hazard – water. Does your dog love swimming in the pool or riding on the family boat? Be sure he knows how to get out of the pool or onto the boat. Problems occur when pets fall into pools or off boats and panic.

Teach your dog how to find the pool steps and climb out. Then put him into the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Repeat this until he is consistently able to get out of the pool on his own. If you have a boat, put the dog in the water next to the boat and then ‘rescue’ him. This way, he’ll be prepared if he falls off the boat unexpectedly.

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Consider purchasing a product such as a Skamper-Ramp, which can be used in pools and on boats. Another sound buy: life vests made for dogs. They come in various sizes to accommodate different breeds.

For those trips in the car, if your dog likes to ride with his head hanging out the car window, consider protecting his eyes with a pair of Doggles — strap-on eyewear that offers UV protection and impact-resistant lenses. Doggles can also be protective for dogs that ride on boats, catch balls or flying discs, or enjoy hiking in wooded areas.

Take the Palm Test

One way to ensure that the sidewalk is not too hot for your dog’s feet is to simply place your hand, palm side down, on the concrete. If it feels too hot to your touch, it will be too hot for your shoe-less canine. If you need to walk your dog in the hot sun, bring water and try to walk on cooler surfaces like grass.

Now you and your pets can enjoy a safe, fun and cool summer.

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