Summer & Pets
Filed in Dogs, Safety
Summertime is a great time for the whole family. Our children are out of school, family vacations are right around the corner, and the weather is ripe for activity! As a pet owner, it's important to consider is how the summer months can effect your four-legged friend.
One of the best things about summertime is that our children are home. While this may thrill you as a parent, consider this from your pet's perspective. Normally he has the house all to himself during the day and is free to laze around to his heart's content. Suddenly, it's June and the haven is interrupted. Now it's endless games of fetch, long walks, and lots of time outside playing in forts and water games.
Healthy pets will have little difficulty adjusting to this increased activity, but it's wise to monitor the amount of rest your pet is getting. It is especially important to watch the activity level of older pets and those with health issues. Speak to your vet about the amount and kind of summer exercise your older or ailing pet should be getting. Make sure to build some "rest time" into his schedule.
No matter where you call home, high summer temperatures can be hard on your pet. It's critical that you make available an adequate supply of fresh, clean water, and monitor your pet for signs of overheating. Keep in mind that your pet doesn't sweat and has to rely on bringing cool air into his lungs (panting) in order to cool his body. If temperatures are high outdoors, it may be time to bring outside pets indoors. In many cases, the shade of a tree won't be enough to keep your pet cool.
Most importantly, never, ever leave your pet in your car. The temperatures inside your car can reach deadly levels in a short period of time, even with a cracked window. When in doubt, leave him at home.
Dealing With Heat Stroke
Watch your pet for signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke is when the body overheats and cannot cool itself down. The symptoms you might notice will include slobbering, panting, rapid pulse, high temperature, vomiting, and possible coma. This condition can be life threatening and should be taken very seriously. If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, consult your vet right away.
Lower your pet's temperature by moving him out of sun and immerse him in cold water. Apply ice (bags of frozen vegetables will work in a pinch!) to his chest and massage his limbs gently to stimulate his circulation. If he's conscious, feed small amounts of cool water. Again, heat stroke is life threatening and you should get to your veterinarian immediately.
If your pet usually exercises with you, stick to the early morning or late evening hours when the temperatures are at their lowest. Remember that dogs are better sprinters than they are long distance runners, so be careful what you're asking your dog to do.
Pets & Vacations
Planning a great out of town vacation for the family? Don't forget to think about your family pet! Consider carefully whether or not your pet will be joining you. Is the trip you're planning a "pet-friendly" trip? Find out by thinking about a few basic questions. What is the transportation for this trip? Airplane? Train? Car? Perhaps your rambunctious Border Collie wouldn't appreciate a cross-country drive from Georgia to California.
Does the place where you're going have pet care service? Do they even allow pets? That trip to the North Carolina woods might be met with a damper if you find out too late that the hotel doesn't take pets. If you're going to stay with friends, will they appreciate your pet as much as you do? Will their small children? Will their allergies? All are things to consider.
If your pet is going along on your vacation, call ahead and make sure pets are welcome where you'll be staying. Also, whether you're going by car or plane, make arrangements ahead of time for travel-time necessities like food, water, exercise, and potty breaks.
If your pet is not going along, decide early so that you can make arrangements for pet care while you're gone. Visit local boarding kennels and tour the facility. Get references. Make sure that your pet's vaccinations are current before boarding him.
Your veterinarian may provide boarding services; if not, they are likely to be able to make recommendations in your area. Remember that boarding service may fill-up quickly during peak months, so reserve early. Another excellent alternative is to higher a friend to act as a house and pet sitter for the duration of your trip.
Depending on your area, fleas and ticks can be a real problem during the summer months. Be diligent about watching for fleas and ticks when the Mercury climbs. For more information about fleas and other pests, consult our Pet Encyclopedias. [Link to main pet encyclopedias page.]
Though your pet's coat protects him from the sun, bald areas like the nose and ears can be susceptible to sunburn. If the sun is shinning, keep the sunscreen handy. Check with your vet on brand names and applications of sunscreen for delicate areas like bare noses and ears.
At one time or another we've all walked barefoot on a stretch of hot pavement, doing the "too-hot-too-hot" dance the whole way. Paw pads on dogs and cats can be very sensitive to high temperatures. Sick to the grass when walking your pet.
Some breeds of dogs and cats have specific skin or coat irritations which are more prevalent during the heat of the summer months. Check with your vet to see if you should be on the look out for any symptoms.
If you take a few summertime precautions, you and your pet will enjoy all the benefits of summer, without any of the drawbacks. Go inside and stay cool. Do things in the morning or evening. Drink lots of fresh water. Plan ahead for your big trip. Keep plenty of sunscreen handy. If these sound familiar to you, that's a good thing. You should take the same summertime precautions you take for yourself. Remember that a smart summer makes for a happy summer!
To sum up:
Consider the impact of increased summer activity on your pet
Pay careful attention to the summertime needs of older or ailing pets
Be sure your pet gets adequate rest during the summer months
Keep a fresh supply of cool water on hand at all times
Closely monitor your pet for signs of heat stroke
Plan your family vacations with pet(s) firmly in mind
Be sure your destination(s) allow for pets, plan for the trip
Board or hire a house/pet sitter if you need to leave your pet behind
Make sure your pet's vaccinations are current before leaving
Watch for fleas, ticks, and other summer "meanies"
Use sunscreen to protect both you and your pet
- Walk you pet on the grass to avoid hot surfaces
Deirdre Kelly is a freelance writer, educator, and dog lover living in Florida.
Michael Levy is co-owner of Pet Food Express with more than a decade of professional dog training experience.