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As summer approaches, not only do the temperatures rise, but we also tend to spend more time outside enjoying the beautiful weather. With the warm weather come some potential dangers and several things that need to be considered if we are to keep our pets safe and healthy. With a few simple precautions, summer can be a time of great fun for both you and your pets. So simply, take the time to plan ahead and have a great summer!
The Heat & Sun
Our pets, especially the young, elderly and overweight, are at increased risk for dehydration and heat stroke as the temperatures increase; both can be life threatening. Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include:
- rapid breathing
- heavy panting
- excessive salivation
- unsteadiness and staggering
- muscle tremors
- glazed eyes
- a fast pulse
Signs of even more dangerous heat stroke include:
- high body temperature
- vomiting & diarrhea
- a deep red or purple tongue and gums
If you observe these symptoms in your pet you need to immediately get your pet out of the heat and you need to contact a veterinarian. You can use cool water (not cold!) to cool down your pet, as you transport them to your veterinarian. Do NOT place an overheated pet in cold water. Misting them with cool water and placing wet towels on their neck, chest and limbs will aid in cooling during transport. Offer them ice chips but do NOT force them to drink.
If your pet experiences heat related distress, they need to be seen by your veterinarian, even if they seem to be okay, to rule out any unseen damage.
Things you can do to prevent heat related injuries are:
- If you leave a pet in the car you need to check on them every few minutes – No Exceptions! When the temperature outside is 80 degrees, the temperature inside your car will reach 100 degrees in 15 minutes, and 120 degrees in 30 minutes, even with the windows open half-way. This can be fatal!
- Once the outside temperature reaches 70, if your pet doesn’t need to go with you, the best place for them is probably at home.
- Do not rely on the vehicle’s air conditioning, or if you do, you must continue to check on your pet every few minutes to ensure that the vehicle and AC are still running.
- Make sure your pet always has access to fresh cool water, and if outside, shade. Be aware that not all dogs will move into the shade when they need to, so if they are outside you need to check on them on a regular basis.
- Keep your pet well groomed, and if they have a long or dense coat and undercoat make sure you keep it mat free. Your pet’s guard hair, or outer coat, actually acts as an insulator which keeps them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We generally do not recommend shaving down an animal with a double coat unless there is a medical reason or the coat has become too severely matted.
- If the sun can get to your pet’s skin, you will need to apply sunscreen on a regular basis or keep them out of the sun, to avoid sunburn.
- Brachycephalic pets (those with short noses like Pugs and Persians) often have a more difficult time breathing in hot, humid weather because of their squashed noses, and are even more susceptible to heat related problems.
- When you go for walks or enjoy other outdoor activities with your pets, make sure you bring along enough fresh cool water for them. Also, it helps to plan these activities for early morning or late evening when the temperatures are a bit cooler.
- Make sure you pet does not overly exert themselves. Exercise is important, but too much activity when it’s hot and humid contributes to dehydration and can result in heat stroke. Like some people, not all pets know when to stop and rest.
- Avoid walking your pet on asphalt. Asphalt absorbs heat and can become hot enough to burn the pads on your pets feet.
- To keep ourselves cool, we often to keep windows open during the summer months. Make sure screens are secure so that your pet cannot escape or accidentally fall out of a window.
The summer months also bring more opportunities to play in the water for both people and pets. While it brings much joy, water also is a source of concern. Some things to consider:
- Many dogs enjoy swimming, but some dogs don’t swim well and even the best swimmers can get tired. Life jackets for dogs can save lives.
- If you have a pool, your dog needs to be supervised whenever they have access to the pool. You should take the time to train them how to safely enter and exit the pool from the shallow end.
- Salt water can damage a dog’s coat, so after any ocean dips take the time to hose them down with fresh water.
- Don’t let your pet stay wet! For some dogs, staying wet can lead to skin irritations, otherwise known as “hot spots.” These can be a source of discomfort and infection for your pet.
Bug Bites, Parasites and Pollen
Insects also enjoy the nice weather and if they are a pest to us they may be a pest to your dog and cat as well.
- Black Flies, Maine’s own special nemesis, seem to love to feast on the tender underbellies of both dogs and cats. While some pets are oblivious, some react the same way we do, itching, scratching, and the equivalent of pet cursing. There are several insect repellants that are safe to use on pets that will help keep black fly and mosquito bites to a minimum. We sell and prefer U. Tick Me Off! And Bug N’ Out. Before using an insect repellent for humans on your pet, read the label. Many products for humans, even kids, may not be safe for pets.
- During the summer months our pets are at risk of getting heartworm from a mosquito bite. This parasitic worm is more of a threat to dogs, but even in cats it can be fatal. Discuss heartworm testing and prevention with your pet’s veterinarian at their annual exam.
- Fleas become more of a problem in the summer months, particularly towards the end of summer. These small insects like to live, feed and breed on our pets. Feeding involves a bite to get a blood meal which causes the classic itch response we see in many pets. Some pets are more allergic to flea bites and just a couple of fleas can make their lives miserable; severe infestations can even cause anemia. The most effective and safest flea preventative products will be available from your veterinarian. These products are safe when used properly. Unfortunately, they are often unintentionally misused causing serious illness and even death in some pets. Talk to your veterinarian so you can make the best choice.
- Ticks are becoming more and more of a problem in Maine. Because they can carry Lyme disease, as well as other tick-borne diseases, you should talk to your veterinarian about preventative products if your pet is likely to be in areas where they may pick up ticks. Just like with flea products, your veterinarian will be able to help you pick the best option for your pet.
- While rare, pets can have an allergic reaction to being stung by bees, wasps and the like. This can be more serious for brachycephalic pets because their breathing is already less than optimal. If you suspect such a reaction you need to get your pet to a veterinarian immediately.
- Tree and grass pollens make my eyes water, nose run, and if the lawn has just been mowed, I itch all over. Some pets can also experience seasonal allergies. In addition to the aforementioned, another common manifestation of seasonal allergies is the continual licking and chewing of feet. If you see these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian and they can assist you in finding relief for your dog.
Lawn fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides and all sorts or other “…cides” are used routinely in our environment to kill something we don’t like. These poisons can all be toxic to our pets and since our animals can’t read little lawn signs or product labels, we need to watch out for them. Read product labels and keep your pet away from areas where these products are used. Remember – our pets aren’t wearing gloves or shoes but run around naked and then clean themselves by licking, increasing their exposure to these products.
While we usually think of mulch as pretty innocuous, cocoa mulch can be deadly if ingested and has an appetizing scent to some animals.
Summer is also a time for family gatherings, celebrations, and vacations. Depending on your pet’s temperament, these can range from good times to scary events. These simple rules will help you keep your pet safe during the festivities.
- Put your dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – when guests are arriving and leaving as well as when meals are being prepared and served. Make sure your guests know that they are to leave your pet alone in this situation.
- Assign one adult to be in charge of each of the dogs, to watch for signs of stress and to protect the dog from unwanted attention from children. At the same time, assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler, with no other tasks assigned to them. Make sure that ALL interactions between pets and children are supervised by an adult.
- Not every dog likes every person – ALWAYS let your dog decide if they want to meet someone new.
- If you are quite certain your pet will not enjoy the increased activity due to the event, or if you will be more relaxed knowing your pet is in a safe, pleasant environment, consider boarding your pet the day and night of the event.
- Fireworks, with their loud booms and bright flashes of light can be very frightening to pets. If they’re right in your backyard or your neighbor’s backyard they can be not only be frightening but can pose a danger to our pets. Keep your pets inside during any personal firework activity. If you go someplace to see the fireworks I would advise you to leave your pet at home in a safe quiet location. They’ll be glad you did.
Vacations & Traveling with Your Pet
- If you travel with your pet, even just to camp, make sure they are wearing ID tags or have been micro-chipped.
- Take your pet’s shot records with you as well as contact information for your regular veterinarian. If you are more than an hour’s drive from your veterinarian, make sure you have phone numbers of other veterinarians in the area where you are staying.
- If you go hiking or camping with your pet, plan ahead. Make sure you have sufficient water and snacks for both of you, a first aid kit, as well as poop bags. Have your dog on a leash – it’s the law in Maine and is intended to keep your pet and others safe. If your dog is frightened by something and runs off, you might not get him back. Lastly, have a plan in mind for getting your dog to safety if they become sick or injured on the hike. If you are alone, weigh 115lbs and your dog weighs 120lbs, could you carry them to safety 5 miles away?