Summer is nearly here, and the mercury’s already starting to climb. As temperatures rise, you probably find yourself wanting to get outdoors and enjoy swimming, hiking, camping, or other adventures. Before you hit the trail, remember that summer heat can pose some very real health risks to your pets. To ensure your furry companions stay cool and safe this summer, take a look at some of our easy-to-follow tips.
Start with a Pre-Summer Check-up
Start your summer will a wellness check-up with your vet. This will give you a good idea of your pet’s overall health and whether your animal is safe to travel. If you are planning to take your pet on vacation, this is the perfect time to ask your vet about any special concerns (such as questions about carriers, diet, vaccinations, etc.)
Remember that animals like dogs and cats don’t sweat through their skin the way we do. They rely on proper hydration panting to help regulate their body temperature during hot weather. That’s why you should keep a good supply of water on hand for your pet, whether at home or on the road. Smaller animals are more susceptible to dehydration, so if you have a small dog or cat that spends significant time outdoors, be sure they have ample water available at all times.
Think your pet may be suffering from dehydration? Learn to recognize these early warning signs:
Loss of skin elasticity
Sunken, hollow eyes
Dry, sticky gums
Loss of appetite
If your companion seems dehydrated, get it to a cool shady place and offer him/her some water. You may also cool your pet’s body by wiping it down gently with a damp washcloth. If symptoms do not resolve, see your vet immediately. Dehydration is serious and can affect electrolyte balance, nerve function, and even cardiovascular health.
Unsupervised Pets Outdoors
Many pet owners give their dogs the run of the yard during hot summer days. That’s fine, as long as you take some basic precautions.
Be sure your yard is properly fenced to keep your pets safe from traffic
Be sure your yard has a shady spot for your pet to escape the heat (toxic summer plants include lilies, foxglove, azaleas, oleanders, and sago palm).
Check that no pesticides dangerous to pets are used on your lawn or plants
Check that your garden contains no plants that are toxic if eaten by pets
Also, if you have a swimming pool, do NOT leave pets unsupervised around the pool when you’re not around. Pet drowning accidents are all too common and are often easy to prevent.
Pets and Cars
Never leave your pet in a locked car. Temperatures within a sealed vehicle can climb to over 130 ºF within minutes, and heat exhaustion can be deadly, especially to smaller animals and to dog and cat breeds with flat faces. Leaving a pet in a locked car is illegal in many states and may result in neglect or cruelty charges. If you must make a stop, leave someone in the vehicle to supervise your pet, with the air on or windows open, or bring your pet along in a carrier. When in doubt, leave Spot at home.
Summer Travel Tips
If you’re taking your pet on the road this summer, you’re going to need some basic gear to make the trip safer and more fun for your pet.
Be sure your pet has a travel crate. Crates should be large enough for your animal to stand and turn fully with ease.
Bring plenty of nutritious snacks. It can be hard to find healthy pet food options at a rest stop, so be sure to pack enough treats from home.
Plan for breaks. Like people, our pets need to make pit stops occasionally, so be prepared to walk your animal (on leash or harness). Some rest stops even have designated dog-walking areas.
Invest in a foldable water bowl. These go-anywhere bowls are made from plastic or canvas and are ideal for giving your pet some much-needed hydration.
A Note on Paw Pads
The summer sun can dramatically raise the temperature of paved surfaces, which we tend to forget because we wear shoes or sandals. But to your pet’s pads, hot asphalt can be more than an annoyance, it can actually hurt your pet’s paw pads. So don’t allow your pet to linger on hot paved surfaces. Instead, seek out a grassy spot where your pet can cool off.
We hope you find these tips helpful. At Figo, we care about your pets almost as much as you do. That’s why we offer a broad array of pet health insurance options—one to fit every budget!
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.