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The Good Old Summertime Can Be Hazardous to Your Pets

May 25, 2012

Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Warm Weather Months

While summer is a time of outdoor fun for both people and their dogs, it can also be a time of additional hazards.  Here is a list of summer safety tips for pets to help owners keep their four-legged companions happy and healthy all season long:

  • Take a pet first aid/CPR course to be prepared for a crisis in any season.
  • Water safety is key – Never force or throw a dog into the water.  Also, never allow a dog into a pool or lake unattended.  If possible, put a floatation device on the dog prior to him entering the water.
  • Never allow a dog to drink water from a pool or lake, and rinse him off well when he comes out of the water.  Pool water contains chlorine, which will make him sick, and lake water is full of bacteria that can cause illness.  Similarly, salty ocean water will cause a dog to get sick, as well.
  • Just like people, pets can get sunburned, especially hairless breeds and those with light hair, pink skin, paw pads and/or noses.  Use a pet sunscreen product and make sure the dog has a shady place in which to go. 
  • Summer can mean encounters with unwelcome visitors, like skunks, so plan in advance.  Because there are few odors worse than skunk spray, have a commercial skunk odor remover on hand or try this home remedy for removing skunk odor from dogs: mix one quart of hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda and one teaspoon of grease-fighting dishwashing liquid in a bucket (do not use a sealed container – it will explode).  While it’s still bubbling, put on rubber gloves and bathe the dog with this mixture and warm water, concentrating on the area that was skunked.  Leave the mixture on for about 10 minutes, then rinse it off.  Just be careful not to get it in your dog’s eyes!  DO NOT use this on cats!  Follow with a bath using a deodorizing pet shampoo designed to deep clean and eradicate odors.
  • Burrs – If not promptly removed, burrs can work their way deep into your pet’s coat, forming mats and causing the hair to pull.  To remove burrs, work vegetable oil or a pet coat conditioner into the area and gently pick the hairs free with your fingers or a metal comb, then bathe your dog or cat with a skin-soothing pet shampoo.  If you have to, use a mat splitter or grooming scissors and cut along, not across, the hair.
  • Be aware of poisonous plants in your garden.  Popular garden residents like Japanese Yew, English Ivy, Hibiscus, Easter Lily, Geranium and Rhododendron can be harmful, or even fatal, if ingested.  If you suspect your pet has ingested any part of one of these plants, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately, or call the Animal Poison Hotline at 888-232-8870.
  • Heatstroke is probably the greatest summer safety risk faced by family pets.  Heatstroke is a dire, life-threatening emergency and it should be dealt with promptly.  Symptoms in dogs include rapid panting, hot eyes, nose and lips and bright red tongue which may swell.  Cats will have similar symptoms, plus they’ll pant and drool and become wobbly.  To prevent heatstroke:
    • Never leave a cat or dog in a car on a summer day
    • Be careful not to block the circulation of air when transporting pets in a crate
    • If you leave your dog outside for any period of time, make sure he has access to clean fresh water and a shady spot to rest
    • If your cat stays home alone when you go to work or out for a day at the beach, leave a fan on or run the air conditioner
    • If you suspect heatstroke, get your pet to a cool area and if he is conscious, offer small amounts of cool water.  Cool him down further by placing him in a tub of water.  After he has cooled down, take him to the veterinarian immediately.
  • Hot Spots – raw, red, oozing sores that result from your pet scratching or licking himself excessively in one area – can be caused by fleas, mites, insect bites, allergies or skin wounds, and should be dealt with quickly.  To help relieve discomfort and promote healing, trim the hair from the area around the hot spot and carefully wash it with a gentle shampoo.  A hydrocortisone spray can be used to help stop itching.  Caution – hot spots can be very painful so it may be necessary to muzzle your pet during treatment.  If the hot spot doesn’t improve, a trip to the vet is recommended.
  • Hot Sidewalks – if the concrete or beach sand is too hot for your bare feet, it’s probably too hot for your dog, too.  Try to walk your dog on grassy surfaces, or in the early morning or evening if it’s a particularly hot day.  Wax-based paw protectants can prevent a dog’s paws from being burned by hot surfaces, and they also work in the winter to protect paws from cold and salt.  Check with your local pet supply retailer or online for more information.
  • Long, Thick Coats – consider giving your long- or dense-coated dog or cat a shorter hair cut for the summer.  It will help keep him cooler and more comfortable, and may also make burrs and other debris easier to remove.  Never trim a long-haired pet’s coat shorter than one inch, as this will make him more susceptible to sunburn.
  • If you plan on traveling with your pet, make sure your pet doesn’t become a statistic by having ID on him at all times.  Ninety percent of lost pets without proper identification never return to their owners.  Microchipping is a good idea, but your pet should still wear a collar with tags imprinted with your cell phone number, as well as your home information and an alternative contact. Have a recent photo of your pet with you and know the name and location of the closest animal shelter to your destination in case he does get lost. Also, bring current vaccination records with you, especially if crossing state lines.
  • Because animals are creatures of habit, bring along some familiar toys and your pet’s usual food and water when traveling with your pet.  Pets are especially sensitive to dietary changes, and there is no guarantee that stores in your vacation area will have the same food, especially if it’s a specialized food.  Plus, having familiar toys around will be comforting to your pet, especially in a strange hotel room.
  • Always have a first aid kit for your pet at the ready. You can purchase an already filled kit or put one together yourself. There are several web sites that have lists of supplies for nearly every type of pet. The kit should also include the phone numbers of your veterinarian and an emergency veterinary hospital near your destination if you are traveling.

As always, have your veterinarian’s phone number and the number of a nearby 24-hour vet handy for when emergencies occur.

By following the simple precautions above, and using a little common sense, you can help your pets keep their cool, have fun and enjoy the season safely.

Dog in field photo by Victor Habbick; Dog on beach photo by  Federico Stevanin.

One Comment
  1. May 26, 2012 12:34 pm

    yep Memorial Day does kick off summer but did you know that summer doesn’t OFFICIALLY begin til June 21st? Tons of good advice here for the dog days of summer!

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