Summer is the season when sunny skies and warm temperatures lure many of us outside for some welcome recreation—and often we bring our four-legged friends along to join in the fun. Before you head out on your next summer adventure, keep in mind that it can be a dangerous time for dogs and cats. Here we’ll review some common summer risks to pets and offer tips for keeping your furry pals safe and healthy during summer parties and play.
Backyard Hazards to Pets
Sometimes the greatest risks to our pets can be found right in our own backyard. From in-ground pools and pool chemicals to common parasites and toxic plants, even a “staycation” may pose some hidden hazards to your pets.
Water Safety. Most dogs are innately good swimmers, but others may need a little help with their doggie-paddle. If your pup is anxious or unsteady about getting in the water, you may want to invest in some swim lessons. And if you’re taking your pet canoeing, kayaking, or out on open water, be sure they’re equipped with a life vest. Floatation vests are available in a range of sizes from miniature to large dogs, so be sure to get one appropriate for your pet’s size and weight. Don’t let your pet swim unsupervised. This is especially important for puppies, small breeds, and older dogs that may have health issues.
Pool and Lawn Chemicals. We depend on chemicals every day. Some keep or lawns looking fresh and green, while others prevent algae, insects, and other unwelcome guests from crashing out pool party. Many of these chemicals are toxic to pets. Always store pesticides and pool chemicals in sealed containers and away from places pets might find them.
Fleas, Ticks and Other Pests. Summer is flea and tick season, and you don’t have to hike deep into the woods to find bugs eager to hitch a ride on your pet. Pets are just as likely to pick up unwanted hitchhikers from lawns and parks. To reduce the risks of parasites, be sure your pet is up-to-date on all flea and tick preventives (such as Advantage, NexGard, and Frontline). And to help prevent Lyme disease, protect your pet from ticks and check them thoroughly after outside excursions.
Holiday Hazards to Pets
Summer holidays are a great time to cook outdoors or enjoy a fireworks display. But before you cut loose, take a few moments to consider the safety of your pets.
Food and Drink. Celebrating summer safely means watching out what your pets eat and drink. Human food, while certainly tempting, may pose some serious risks for pets. Do not let your dog eat chicken bones. Bird bones are lightweight and when cooked can splinter, potentially causing significant injury to a dog’s mouth, throat, and digestive tract. Also, lots of normally harmless human foods can be problematic for the digestive and metabolic systems of our pets. Foods pets should avoid include avocado, chocolate, coconut, grapes, raisins, nuts, citrus fruits, and candy. Keep alcohol—including beer—away from pets. Be sure your summer party guests don’t leave their plates and cups around.
Fireworks. Summer holidays, especially July 4th, are known for their fireworks displays. But for some pets, these loud noises and bright flashes can be panic-inducing. If your pets are anxious around fireworks, thunderstorms, or loud noises in general, be sure they have a safe and secure place to hide before the booms start. Also, be sure your pets wear current ID tags or have implantable data chips to identify them in case they run off during a fireworks show. A surprising number of lost-pet reports each summer result from panicked animals fleeing fireworks.
Heat Safety and Pets
Heat is perhaps the most obvious summer danger to pets, but it is also commonly overlooked. Here are some basic cautions to keep in mind when trying to beat the heat with your pets.
Never leave an animal in a hot car. On your vacation or simply running to the store for pet supplies, don’t leave your pet alone in the car. Even when a car is parked in the shade, the interior can rapidly heat to 120 ºF within minutes, making conditions life-threatening for both humans and pets.
Always provide adequate drinking water. Like people, pets need to stay hydrated to help maintain their body temperature at safe levels. Bur because dogs and cats don’t sweat, they are at increased risk for heatstroke. An accessible supply of fresh drinking water is essential to keeping your pet cool and hydrated.
Learn the signs on heatstroke in animals. In dogs, these include: panting, increased salivation, bright pink gums, and increased heart rate. In cats, look for rapid pulse and breathing, red gums, lethargy, staggering, or trouble walking. If you suspect heatstroke in your pets, use a cloth wetted with cool (not cold) water to moisten their fur, and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Let your dog walk on the grass as much as possible. One important aspect of summer pet care that most people don't realize is that a dog's paws can burn easily on hot concrete or asphalt. In addition to hurting its paws (severely in some cases), this can also cause your pet to overheat quickly.
Protect your pet’s skin from excessive sun exposure. Dogs can get sunburnt, and they can acquire skin cancer. Those pups with particularly short hair or light-colored hair have a higher risk. Don't let your pet spend too much time in the sun, and talk with your veterinarian about dog sunscreen products that might help your pet.
We hope these tips will help you—and your pets—have a safe and fun summer outdoors!
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.
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