(from the AVMA, Purina Pet Care Company and the HSUS)
Whew... it's gonna be a hot one!
The following guidelines will help you protect your companion animals when the weather turns warm.
As temperatures soar, pets become more vulnerable to heat stress. Heatstroke or heat prostration is a common cause of summer illness that can, and does, kill many beloved pets each year. Maintaining a comfortable environment for your pet is important. Providing plenty of cool, fresh water will help keep your pet cool throughout the summer. Heatstroke develops rapidly and is often associated with exposure to high temperatures, humidity and poor ventilation.
Symptoms can include: Puppies and geriatric dogs tend to be more susceptible
- a staring or anxious expression
- failure to respond to commands
- warm, dry skin
- extremely high body temperature (>103.5ºF)
- rapid heartbeat
Housing Outdoor Pets
If your pet spends a substantial part of its day outside, be sure that you provide a cool, shady spot for it to escape the hot summer sun and plenty of cool, clean water. A sheltered area must also be available so that the pet can escape summer storms. Be sure that areas in which pets are housed are secure and that pets cannot run into busy streets, fall into deep window wells, or become trapped within or under lawn equipment.
- Some of the worst summer tragedies involve pets that are left in vehicles with the windows partially or completely rolled up. Temperatures inside a car rapidly climb to more than 100 F and can cause death sometimes in as little as 10 minutes! One study reports that when the outside temperature is 78ºF, a closed car will reach 90ºF in five minutes, and 110ºF in 25 minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but they do provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen or escape from the vehicle. If you need to leave your pet in a car for any period of time, please do your pet and yourself a favor and leave them at home.
- When traveling with your pet, call ahead to make sure your pet will be welcome at any hotels or homes where you intend to stay.
- Travel from state to state usually requires a health certificate and proof of Rabies vaccination for each pet, which has been signed by a veterinarian.
- Travel outside of the country often requires that the pet be quarantined for a specified period of time, so be sure to check restrictions in the country to which you will be traveling. Also keep in mind that most airlines restrict travel of pets when the ambient temperature is greater than 80ºF both at the point of departure and arrival.
- Always take a copy of your pet's medical records with you when you travel, should your pet require emergency treatment while you're away from home.
- Always be sure your pet is wearing a current identification tag on their collar (a city/county dog license or Rabies tag is no substitution for a proper ID tag with your current address and phone number).
- Remember that sometimes the best solution for everyone is to make arrangements for a sitter to watch your pet in your home or to bring your pet to a boarding facility.
Avoid excessive exercising of your dog during hot days or warm, humid nights. The best time to exercise is either early in the morning before sunrise or late in the evening after the sun goes down. Remember that dark surfaces may be dangerously hot for your pet's feet. Avoid asphalt, blacktop, tar and chip, and similar surfaces on sunny days. Sidewalks can also burn pad burns in the hot summer months, so walk on the grass when possible.
If you bicycle with your dog, remember, you are doing far less work on a bike that your dog is running next to you. In warm weather, it is very easy for your dog to overexert itself while running. The hot summer months, leave your running/cycling companion at home.
Pets & Pools
It is a misconception that all dogs can swim. Although it is instinctual for dogs to paddle when submerged in water, some breeds are not capable of adequately keeping themselves buoyant. Many bully-breeds are classically "front-end heavy" and can have significant difficulties keeping their head above water. Brachycephalic (pug-faced) breeds have an increased risk of aspirating water when swimming because of their facial conformation (structure). A properly-fitting doggy life jacket is a must for all dogs who enter the water or go boating.
Swimming pools have the added danger of drowning due to exhaustion. Unless taught, most dogs do not know how to exit a pool. Even when ladders are readily available, dogs do not instinctively go to them and most do not know how to effectively use them unless they have been trained how to find and use it.
Pools, ponds and other open bodies of water certainly pose an obvious drowning hazard, but pools have yet another added danger. Pets playing in yards with pools (in particular in-ground pools) may not be aware the pool's cover is not a solid surface. If a pet treads onto the cover of a pool, it is possible for the pet to become entrapped in the pool cover and suffocate.
When boating or playing in/near swimming pools, a watchful eye is the best way to ensure your pet's safety.
Dogs who have recently received short haircuts may become sunburn victims and may be more susceptible to heat stress than dogs who haven't had their coats trimmed. In fact, your dog's fur has insulating properties to help protect him from the heat.
Breeds lacking coat (Sphynx cats, Chinese Crested dogs, etc.) and dogs who suffer from alopecia (hair loss) due to disease may require the use of sunscreen to protect vulnerable skin. Skin cancer is not uncommon in dogs, especially those who have a history of repeated extreme sun exposure and subsequent skin damage (sunburn).
- Heartworm Disease: Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are parasites transmitted by mosquitoes that can potentially be fatal to your dog or cat. Many people are familiar with heartworm disease in dogs, but are unaware that cats may also contract the parasite (heartworm disease was reported in cats in 38 states by the American Heartworm Society); in fact, cats infested with heartworms often have more severe clinical signs than dogs and a poorer prognosis. Have your dog or cat tested for the presence of heartworms by your veterinarian, and ask about heartworm preventatives. Treatment for this disease can be expensive and risky for your pet. Comparatively, prevention is easy, effective and inexpensive. The rate of contraction of the disease is no higher in dogs who live strictly outdoors than those who are indoor dogs. This is because indoor dogs go outdoors at peak mosquito times of the day (dawn and dusk) to potty and exercise. Mosquitoes are everywhere. This also means that strictly indoor cats and dogs who are trained to use puppy pads and also never venture outdoors are also at risk.
- Fleas: Normally only adult fleas live on pets, and often they remain there only long enough to feed. Eggs may be laid on the pet, but usually fall off the pet into the environment where conditions are right for them to develop (through a multistage life cycle) into adult fleas. As a result, it is possible to have a substantial flea problem although you have only identified a few or no fleas on your pet. Egg and larval stages can survive in your home all year and in your yard from spring through late fall (all year in warmer climates). Biting and scratching on the lower back, tail, and abdomen are the most common signs of flea infestation and dermatitis will often flare up in these areas. Fleas carry tapeworms, so be sure to have your veterinarian check your pet for these intestinal parasites as well. Flea control involves treatment of the pet by means of a veterinarian-approved topical product. Never use products labeled 'for use on dogs' on cats. Cats often have violent reactions to the misuse of these products and can suffer from muscle spasms, hypersalivation, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperthermia, seizures and even death. Read product labels carefully and fully before applying to your pet!
- Ticks:Yet another parasite that is a common problem during the warmer months. Ticks are not only an irritant and nuisance to your pet, but may transmit several debilitating diseases, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis. Your veterinarian can help you recognize ticks and show you the proper way to remove them from your pet (if you simply try to remove the tick by pulling, you may leave its mouthparts embedded within your pet's skin). The use of a veterinarian-approved topical product is the best method for preventing tick bites. Owners whose dogs have substantial exposure to ticks (sporting dogs, dogs that go camping, and those spending time in forest preserves or woods, etc.) should also ask their veterinarian's advice about the appropriateness of a vaccination for Lyme disease.
Pesticides, lawn care products, and landscaping:
Many of these products are potentially toxic to pets. Be sure to read labels carefully and seek treatment immediately if you know or believe your pet has been exposed.
- Pesticides- Products such as rodenticide (rat/mouse bait) and slug bait are enticing to pets, yet highly toxic. Without treatment, exposure to these agents often is fatal. Be sure to store unused product out of your pet's reach and prevent access to baited areas.
- Lawn Care Products- After treating lawns and outside areas, restrict pets from these areas until exposure danger has passed. Read labels to know if this is after drying or if the product must be watered in order to be considered safe for people and pets to be exposed to the treated area.
- Landscaping- Remember that many types of summer foliage (among them hydrangea, wisteria, delphinium, foxglove, privet hedge, and monkshood) can be toxic to pets. If you're planning to add a plant to your yard, research its toxicity to pets before you purchase it. Some landscaping materials can also pose a hazard to pets. Cocoa mulch can be deadly if ingested and has an appetizing scent to some animals.
Summer months are the peak season for dog bites because so many kids and dogs are playing outside. Training, socialization, and spaying or neutering a dog can reduce the risk of dog bites. Kids can learn to stay safe through good manners around pets and humane education.