After a long, cold New England winter, summer is a welcomed change. It’s a time for local cookouts, trips down the Cape, and backyard pool parties. But when temperatures increase, the dangers to our beloved dogs and cats can too. To keep your pet safe, you have to be prepared. Care.com interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski, associate professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and section head for emergency medicine at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals, for tips on preventing accidents and safeguarding your pet during the summer months.
Dehydration and Heat Stroke
Dehydration and heat stroke are very real threats when the dog days of summer are upon us. Animals should always have fresh, clean water available, whether it’s summer or the dead of winter. Carry portable water bowls on walks. Bring them on your Maine vacation or long car rides down the Cape (you never know how traffic will be!). Short-nosed dogs, like pugs, Japanese chins and bulldogs, darker-colored pets, animals that are overweight or ones that have thick coats (like Himalayan or Persian cats), are especially prone to heat stress. Watch out for these symptoms:
•Refusal to eat
•Decreased skin elasticity (Gently pinch your pet’s skin near the shoulder up into the shape of a tent; if the skin is slow to snap back, your pet may be dehydrated.)
Don’t worry if your dog pants. “It’s how they cool themselves,” says Dr. Rozanski. “The hotter it is, the more they will pant.” Other ways to cool your pup? Fans, ice packs, frozen treats, ice cubes, kiddie pools and sprinklers. Your kids and dog will have a blast.
What should you do if you think your pet is dehydrated? “If they seem weak or off-balance, cool them with a hose or wet towels and get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible,” recommends Ronzanski.
We have all been guilty of it. You leave the dog or cat in the car to run a quick errand inside a store. But in the summer months or if the temperature is above 65 degrees, stop this bad habit. “It’s too great a risk to your dog’s health and should not be done,” warns Dr. Rozanski. So keep your pet safe and bring them inside with you.
Ever heard the expression, “It’s so hot, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk”? Things like black pavement (or asphalt) can get very hot and can harm your pets’ paws. “Think about what you’re walking on,” says Dr. Rozanski. “If you wouldn’t like walking on it with bare feet, try to limit your dog’s time on it too.”
Talk to your dog walker about what routes to avoid in the summer. Stay away from asphalt or rough pavement, pick softer routes and schedule walks for cooler times of the day.
And what about booties? “If you think your dog will tolerate them, give them a try—but many really don’t like them,” says Dr. Rozanski. Plus, common sense tricks, like walking in the shade, can replace the need for booties, so try that before paying for something your pup may not like.
Pools and water
Despite what YouTube may tell us, cats and rabbits don’t like to swim. “I believe most of the animals [in the videos] are not enjoying it,” says Dr. Rozanski. And not all dogs have mastered the doggie paddle. Some may not like water and certain breeds like pugs and terriers may have trouble swimming. So before you bring Fido to the beach or pool, buy a flotation device (yes, dogs can wear floaties too!) to keep your pup safe. If you are planning a boating adventure off Gloucester with your dog this summer, make sure he doesn’t jump overboard, which can be dangerous for animals. And never try to force your pet into the water.
If you luck out and your pet enjoys splashing around, always rinse off after a swim. The chlorine, salt and bacteria in pools and lakes can be harmful. Animals should also have a shady area nearby where they can cool off and access to fresh water, as drinking salt water and pool water can cause health problems.
More time spent outdoors means more potential encounters with slithering serpents. Most snakes in New England are harmless, but sometimes a snake’s bite is worse than your dog’s bark. Protect your pet (and the rest of your family) by keeping your yard tidy—snakes love to hide and tall grass and piles of junk are perfect spots.
Remind kids that if they see a snake—no matter if it’s poisonous or not – they should back away and leave it alone. “If your dog is inclined to chase wild animals, get him or her into the house until the animal goes away,” advises Dr. Rozanski. Continued...