For many of us, Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to a summer packed with activities—vacations, cookouts, camping, hiking, swimming, and more. Including your dog in your holiday plans is a great way to ensure that your pet not only has fun, but also gets the exercise and socialization essential to physical and emotional health.
Before you pack up the car and set out on your holiday adventure, there are a few things you should know to keep your pooch safe amid all the fun. Make your Memorial Day Weekend safe and fun for you and your dog with these suggestions.
Heat and Sun Exposure
Heat and sun exposure present many of the same risks to pets as they do to humans—but because dogs cannot perspire to lower their body temperature, they need a little extra care in the hot weather. First, never leave a dog in a hot car. On a warm day, temperatures in a car, even when parked in the shade, can escalate within minutes to 120 ºF and can quickly become life threatening. Also, some dogs can become overheated more quickly than others. Dogs with short muzzles, overweight dogs, and those that become stressed easily have a harder time cooling off, so be sure your dog has a shady place to relax with plenty of fresh cool water.
Check on your dog periodically for signs of heatstroke—such as panting, increased salivation, bright pink gums, and rapid heart rate. If you suspect heat stroke, cool your pet with a damp cloth or with room-temperature water from a hose or spigot (cold water can cause blood vessels to constrict and can worsen the effects of heat stroke) and transport your animal to a vet.
Proper hydration is as essential to dogs for maintaining their body temperature. As in humans, water is an essential component in maintaining proper muscle, nerve, and kidney function. If your dog is outdoors with you, be sure that an ample source of fresh clean water is available to your pet at all times. Most dogs can drink safely from running streams or brooks, but avoid letting your pet drink from still water (such as in stagnant ponds or mud holes), as these can contain bacteria that can overwhelm your pet’s immune system.
Food and Drink Cautions
As we know, people food is not always good for dogs. And while few of us are immune to offering our furry companions a table scrap or two, there are some summer foods dogs should avoid. Topping the list of “don’ts” is alcohol: Giving a dog beer isn’t funny, and the gases released from beer can cause conditions such as gastric torsion and bloating. Dairy should also be avoided, as dogs cannot process lactose like humans. That innocent dollop of ice cream can lead to digestive discomfort and diarrhea.
Another summer food dogs should avoid is corn. Though cornmeal is often an ingredient in kibble, corn on (or off) the cob can wreak serious havoc with your dog’s digestive system. Also, avoid giving your dog fruits—peach and plum pits can be fatal to dogs, and grapes and raisins can cause severe liver and kidney failure.
Finally, limit the fatty treats (like those cheeseburgers hot off the grill), as in large amounts these can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis in dogs.
Fireworks and Thunderstorms
Some dogs become highly stressed in the presence of loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks—and summers tend to have plenty of both. If you know your dog is anxious around loud booming sounds, avoid bringing your pet to celebrations where fireworks are present.
Thunderstorms, unfortunately, are harder to sidestep. If your dog is prone to “storm panic,” there are a few things you can try to create calmness. First, be sure your dog has a safe place to go during a thunderstorm. Second, consistently comfort your animal and reward calm behavior. Also, in some cases a snug garment can help “swaddle” your pet during anxiety attacks and can use biologic cues to calm your pet.
If you know your dog is afraid of loud noises, see your veterinarian for recommendations before making holiday plans.
Editor’s Note: For tips on avoiding common injuries to active pets, click here.
Flea and Tick Control
With the warm weather come common parasites such as fleas and ticks, and if you and your pet plan to be outdoors this Memorial Day, you should be aware of the risks.
Prevention is, as usual, the best remedy, and there are a variety of products (Advantix, NexGard, etc.) that help stop parasites before they attach to your animal. If you do spot a tick on your dog, don’t apply any chemical agent such as petroleum jelly or nail polish, as these will cause the tick to disgorge its stomach contents, including harmful bacteria, into your dog’s system. A simple tick puller can remove the tick, head and all, without risk of bacterial infection to your pet.
Lyme disease, parasites and heartworm are common concerns during the warmer months due to the prevalence of fleas, mosquitoes and ticks. Check with your vet for recommendations on the best flea and tick preventives, as well as the most effective way to prevent heartworm and other parasites.
We hope you and your dogs have a fun, safe, and relaxing holiday!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.