Summertime means sun, beach, and lots of play outdoors with your dog or cat (did you know that adventurous cats is a growing trend?). Summer can be a great time to bond with your pet. But higher temperatures also mean higher risks for our furry companions – more injuries, more skin and ear infections, and a possibility of a heat stroke.
- Provide plenty of water and shade. Dehydration in dogs and cats is a real possibility during the summer. Keep your pet in the shade as often as possible. While dogs and cats like to sunbathe, direct sunlight can overheat them (especially dogs) and lead to heat stroke.
- Don’t shave your pet. Feel free to trim the fur on your pet in the summer, but never shave. Be sure to leave at least a full inch of hair to protect your pet’s skin from sunburns. And don’t forget about your pet’s regular grooming schedule, no matter what season it is.
- Keep parasites off. In summer, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites are practically everywhere. They carry tapeworms, heartworms, and diseases such as Lyme or Bartonella that can put your pet at risk. Ask your vet for the appropriate medical prescriptions to keep your Fido or Kitty pest-free.
- Consider a life vest. If you decide to take your doggy or kitty sailing or boating, be sure it wears a life vest in a bright color to stay visible and afloat in case of an accident. Always keep an eye on your furry companion when near water.
- Respect the heat. Humans aren’t the only animals that can find a hot summer day overwhelming. But unlike you, your pet has a limited ability to deal with the heat. Dogs release heat through their paw pads and by panting, while humans can sweat through all of the skin on their body. Dehydration can be a big problem for pets during the hot weather, too. According to the ASPCA, animals with flat faces—like Pugs and Persian cats—cannot pant as effectively, and are therefore more susceptible to heat stroke. You should also keep an eye on elderly or overweight pets or animals with heart and lung disease. In the summer, make certain that Fido and Fluffy always have access to plenty of fresh, cool water, and avoid letting them run around outside during the hottest parts of the day.
- Keep bugs away—safely. Another summer pet safety issue is the presence of ticks and other summer insects. Not only can bugs carry diseases, but the ways people try to ward them off can also cause problems for your outdoor pet’s health. Fertilizers and pesticides may help keep a lawn looking great, but they can be very dangerous for your pet. In the areas where your pets play, it’s better to keep the grass cut short to reduce the presence of ticks and other insects. Also keep an eye out for fertilizer warnings on neighbors’ lawns when walking your dog. Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your pet from fleas, ticks, and other insects that are more prevalent during the summer months.
- Beware of antifreeze. In the summertime, antifreeze can leak out of cars when they overheat, leaving puddles on the ground that your dog can easily lap up and swallow. The sweet taste of antifreeze is tempting to dogs and cats, but when this toxic substance is ingested, it’s potentially lethal. Pay attention to your neighbors’ cars and puddles on your street, and make sure your pets stay clear of it.
- Find out if your pet needs sunscreen. Some pets, particularly those with short fine hair and pink skin, can be susceptible to sunburn. Talk to your veterinarian about which types of sunscreen are safest on your pet’s skin, and follow up by routinely applying sunscreen as part of your summer routine. Do not use sunscreen or insect repellents that are not designed specifically for use on animals. The ASPCA says ingesting certain sunscreens can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy in pets.
- Practice water safety. As with other aspects of summer pet care, water safety is all about thinking ahead. Although it’s fun to bring your pet to the beach or pool to stay cool together, always keep a close eye on your pet when they’re in or near the water. Even a strong swimmer could have trouble getting out of a pool, or get trapped by ropes and other obstacles. For more risky summer adventures with your dog, like boating, look into a doggie life preserver. It could prove to be an excellent investment for his safety.