7 summer pet hazards

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.  So this week seemed like a good time to write about keeping our pets safe this time of year.

Summer is a great time to enjoy activities with our pets we can’t take advantage of when the weather is bad. Things like hiking, swimming, and trips to the park for family cookouts.

We also have friends and family to our homes at this time of the year for BBQs and holiday celebrations.

Although these occasions are fun for humans and our pets, they expose our pets to health risks we need to protect against.

Here are 7 hazards to look out for:

1) High-Rise Syndrome

This is one you might not have considered. People with pets living in high-rise apartment buildings are more apt to leave their windows open this time of year. That can lead to cats and small dogs falling and getting hurt… maybe even dying.

A strong prey drive can lead any pet to chase a squirrel, rabbit or other small animal they see outside. With no sense of the danger of jumping out the window, this can be deadly.

2) Heat

Heat is dangerous for our pets. It can cause dehydration, overheating, and burns to delicate paws.

Ideally, pets should be inside when it’s 90 degrees or higher. But if that’s not possible and you have an outdoor cat or dog, you must be sure they always have access to shade and fresh water.

Dark-colored pets, old pets, sick pets, overweight pets and thick-coated pets are more prone to heat stress. As are short-nosed dogs like bulldogs and pugs. They have difficulty breathing in optimal weather. The heat makes it worse.

If you exercise with your dog, be sure to do it early in the morning or in the evening. If your dog isn’t used to exercise, don’t start them on a regimen when it’s hot out.

The heat can overcome even active dogs. Long periods of physical exertion when it’s hot out are harder on your dog than they are on you and can lead to heat stroke.

Why is that? Dogs are closer to the ground and the ground is hotter than the air. And their ability to cool their bodies is not as efficient as yours.

Know the signs your dog is in trouble. A weak, lethargic, off-balance dog is a dog that’s suffering the onset of heat stroke.

If possible, wet them down with cool, not cold, water. Be sure to wet the skin and call the vet immediately.

And never, ever leave your pet in a parked car when it’s more than 65 degrees outside. The temperature can jump 40 degrees in a half hour and kill your pet.

If you have one of those pets that just has to be outside with you in the hot weather, cool them down with a hose or sprinkler. Or fill a kiddie pool with cool water and encourage them to lounge in it.

Understand it’s not just heat stroke that’s a danger though. Dehydration is a serious concern in the summer months too.

If your dog is out in the heat, be sure they are drinking frequently. Carry a portable water bowl on walks and long car rides.

Dehydration is a topic I wrote about in Dehydration in dogs and cats… not just a summer problem, back in September. It’s an even bigger problem this time of year and so important to understand. It can’t be overstated. Read that post so you know the signs.

And another concern in the summer, especially if you have a dog you walk daily, is their paws.

Concrete, asphalt, and sand can all burn those delicate tootsies. Test outdoor surfaces with the palm of your hand.  Your palm is as sensitive as your dog’s pads. If you can hold your hand on the ground for more than 10 seconds with little discomfort, it’s not likely to burn your dog’s paws.

If the ground is too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s definitely too hot for your dog.

3) Water

When it’s hot out, a nice swim can cool you and your pet down but not all pets love the water. And contrary to popular belief, not all dogs can instinctively swim.

It takes practice for most dogs.

If you have a pool, be sure you go in the pool initially with your dog.  Show them how to get out. Practice exiting the pool several times until you are sure your dog knows how to get out on its own.

If you are taking your dog to a lake or ocean, go in the water with the dog at first to show them how to exit.

On a boat, be sure your dog has its own life jacket.  Even strong swimmers can get hurt jumping from a boat. Also if the dog tires, there’s no exit and they can panic. Attach a rope to the life jacket if your dog doesn’t respond when called so you can pull them back to you.

Rinse your dog off with clean water after swimming in a pool, lake or ocean. The chlorine and bacteria can cause skin and other health problems.

4) Poisons

The nice weather encourages time spent in our yards. Inevitably that means some gardening to spruce things up. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can all be dangerous to your pets.

Be sure to keep your pets away from these chemicals until they’ve been watered into the ground.

If you do some planting in your yard, be sure any plants you choose are safe if ingested. Many common garden plants are toxic to animals.  Click here for the ASPCA’s guide to toxic plants.

And summertime is pool time! Never leave pool chemicals where your pet can get to them.

If rodents are a problem where you live, traps can be dangerous. Keep your pets away from the bait or poison in those traps. They are toxic.

If you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. They will consult with you for a fee 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

5) Pests

The warm weather certainly has a way of bringing out lots of nasty critters like snakes, scorpions, bees, wasps, spiders, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes… to name a few.

Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, they carry serious diseases.  There are lots of flea and tick preventatives on the market to protect your pet. And mosquitoes should always be kept in check because they’re a health risk to humans too.

But lots of other creatures can hurt your dog or cat.

Snakes, bee’s nests and scorpions often hide in dark areas. Dogs have a way of sticking their noses where they shouldn’t… like under foliage and inside holes in the ground.

On your property, be aware of any new holes or potential areas where bees can nest. In unfamiliar areas, keep your dog on a leash so you can control where they stick their nose.

If a snake bites your pet, call your vet immediately. Bee, wasp and scorpion stings may swell, but your pet will usually be fine. If there’s a lot of swelling or you see they’re developing a “hot spot” from scratching, call your vet.

6) BBQ Cookouts

Summer is the time to enjoy cookouts with friends and family. Whether it’s a graduation party, July 4th or a family reunion, summer is the best time to fire up the barbie. Unless you live in Arizona where the temps are north of 105 every day. Then it’s not so much fun to stand over a hot grill.

But no matter how you cook your food, it’s likely you’ll be having a few gatherings during the warmer months.

The biggest BBQ hazards for our pets are food with bones, like ribs and chicken, and corn on the cob. Those bones can perforate the intestinal tract. And the cob is not only hard to digest, it’s also a choking hazard.

For good health, table food should always be kept to a minimum but particularly fatty foods that can cause pancreatitis in dogs.

If your pet has food allergies, cookouts and party guests who indulge your pet can be a big problem. So keep a watchful eye.

7) Sun

In most parts of the country, summer is sunny… more so in some states than others. And just like humans, pets can get sunburn on areas of their body that are exposed to the sun for long periods.

Your dog’s nose and belly are susceptible to sunburn because they’re not well-protected by fur.

You can try a sunscreen made for pets, but it’s likely they’ll just lick it off. You might also put a light t-shirt on if they’ll tolerate it.  But minimizing exposure to the sun is your best course of action.

How will you protect your pet from these summer hazards? Tell us in the comment section at the top.

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