Summer is a time to enjoy the outdoors—from beaches and swimming to hiking, boating, cookouts, and fireworks—and the warmer temperatures. It’s also a time that brings severe and unpredictable changes in the weather. In this blog, we’ll discuss a few summer weather hazards and offer some ways you can help your pets have a fun and safe season.
Excessive heat can stress your pet’s ability to regulate its body temperature properly. During heat waves, wild mammals like raccoons, possums, skunks, and badgers seek the cooling shelter of their dens and rarely venture out in the mid-day heat. However, for a family pet at the beach or sunny campground, staying cool can be a challenge. So wherever the summer fun takes you, be sure your dog has a shady place to relax with plenty of fresh cool water available. When temps spike, check periodically for signs of heat stroke in your pet, such as panting, increased salivation, bright pink gums, and rapid heart rate. You can help your pet stay cool with a damp cloth or with a gentle spray from a hose or spigot. And keep a collapsible pet bowl handy for easy access to water.
During the summer, electrical storms can arise quickly and can bring strong winds, heavy rains, and plenty of lightning. If you and your pet are caught outdoors during a pop-up thunderstorm, don’t panic. Your dog likely will take its emotional cues from you, so the calmer you remain, the calmer your pet will be. Seek shelter as best you can under low growth or in a vehicle (being sure to roll the windows up). Stay out of streams or rivers, and avoid standing under taller trees, as they are more prone to lightning strikes and their root systems can carry a dangerous shock under the ground on which you and your pet are standing. Also, avoid taking shelter in beach shacks or under picnic pavilions. If your pet is prone to anxiety during thunderstorms, offer comforting touch and reassurance. Also, in some cases a snug garment can help “swaddle” your pet and reduce storm-panic.
Each year flash floods claim the lives of unsuspecting vacationers. If you and your pet are camping or hiking in an area prone to flash flooding, avoid spending extended periods in gulches or dry washes. Such places may seem safe, especially on a bright sunny day, but remember that in dry country, the rain that causes a flash flood may be falling miles away from your location. If you see water suddenly begin to flow through, what had moments earlier been a dry streambed, move yourself and your pet to higher ground immediately. If you are in your car, don’t attempt to drive across flooding streams. The water may not seem deep, but even a foot of fast-moving floodwater can contain enough force and debris to carry away a vehicle.
Forest fires are a common risk in summer. Whether sparked by lightning or by a careless camper, fire can move quickly through forested land, grassland, or dry scrub. If you find yourself in harm’s way, don’t try to outrun the fire. Move to lower ground (fires climb upward) and stay upwind of the fire. Take shelter in a pond or stream and lay as low as you can. If no water source is available, find an open area and clear away leaves and debris that could easily burn. Cover yourself and your pet with a wet blanket, clothing, or even moist soil and shelter in place until the fire has passed.
If you are in a recreational area that is being evacuated due to flood, fire, or other unsafe condition, follow the instructions of law enforcement to reach the designated evacuation route. Don’t attempt a shortcut, as these can easily be blocked by fire, water, or debris. Prepare a carrier for each pet in advance, labeled with your name and contact information. Line the floor of each carrier with a towel. For cats, spray the towel and carrier with Feliway, a feline facial pheromone that promotes feelings of security and relaxation (this technique is also helpful when taking your cat to the vet). You may want to keep a two-week supply of food, medicines, litter, and other pet essentials in a tote bag you can access easily in an emergency. Create a relocation plan, and keep a current list of pet-friendly motels in the area handy.
We hope you and your pets enjoy a safe and fun summer season!
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.