Everyone loves the warm, lazy days of summer, especially our pets. After the long, cold winter, they finally get to go outside and romp around in the sunshine. However, there are some important things to think about during the warmer months in order to keep our precious pets safe and comfortable. So, we’ve compiled the top nine summertime safety tips to help you keep your pet happy and healthy.
1. Keep Pets Hydrated
The most important thing to remember in the warmer months is to provide clean, fresh water for your pet. It’s also good to clean the water bowl daily. Your pet won’t want to drink water with a foul taste, due to bacterial growth, which can also make your pet sick.
Pets will often knock their water bowls over and become dehydrated. Consider using spill-proof bowls or placing a heavy object, like a clean brick or rock in the bowl. Another way to keep the bowl upright is to wedge it in an old tyre or between objects, such as two trees placed close together. There are also self-watering bowls for indoor or outdoor use.
Pets that spend time both indoors and outdoors should have access to one water bowl in the home, as well as one in the yard. Place outdoor bowls in the shade to keep the water cool and to keep the water from evaporating. Place a block of ice in the water to keep it cool longer, or as a special treat, make your own blocks of ice from leftover beef or chicken stock.
Make sure to carry water when you take your pet out for a walk or on a trip, no matter how short it is, because unexpected delays can sometimes happen. There are non-spill travel bowls and collapsible water bowls, like the Snooza water wallet, that make it easy to keep your pet hydrated and healthy at all times.
2. Think Water Safety
Dogs love a cool dip in the water to cool down in the summer, but not all dogs know instinctively how to swim. The intense exercise of swimming can tire your pet, just like humans. A doggy life jacket can make the difference between life and death for pets when they spend time with you at the waterside. For those sweltering days, consider filling a children’s wading pool or hosing down your pet. Cats like wading pools, too, and will dip their paws in the water or take a cool drink.
Many apartment complexes and private homes have pools, which pose a hazard to pets. Even if your pet can swim, it’s hard for them to get out of most pools, because of the high sides. Also, the pool chemicals can proof toxic to pets, if they ingest some of the pool water. If you have your own pool, show your dog where the stairs or ladder are located, and make sure they learn to find it. Be sure that pool covers are firmly in place; dogs may slip in under openings in the covers and drown.
If you’re planning to take your dog to the beach, check with a lifeguard for daily water conditions. Dogs are easy targets for sea lice and jellyfish. Do not let your dog drink seawater; the salt will make him sick. Salt and other minerals in ocean water can also damage your dog’s coat, so rinse it off at the end of the day. Not all beaches permit pets; check local ordinances before heading out. Never throw your dog into the water. If swimming at the ocean, be careful of strong tides. Never leave pets unattended near water.
3. Good Grooming Practices
It’s a good idea to clip longhaired cats and dogs in the hot weather. Pets with their thick, long fur have a hard time dealing with the hot conditions here in Australia. They don’t sweat to cool off like people do, so the only way for them to keep cool is by panting and distributing the heat via their skin and paws. Many pet breeds that originated in much colder climates just don’t need their thick, long fur for the Australian climate. Clipping the fur will allow their skin to breath and release heat to keep your pet nice and cool. Be careful not to clip fur too short, and if you do, remember to use a pet sunscreen for protection from skin cancer and sunburn.
4. Protect from the Sun
Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can easily sunburn. Limit your dog’s exposure during the day, and apply sunscreen to the ears and nose at least 30 minutes before they venture outdoors. Sunscreen is important, because it also prevents solar dermatitis and skin cancer in pets. Remember to reapply sunscreen often, especially in pets that tend to lick and groom themselves a lot, and each time your pet takes a refreshing dip.
Other products, such as caps and mesh eye-wear are great protection for those pets who will tolerate them. Provide some sort of shelter for animals who spend lots of time out in your yard, so they can cool off and escape the glaring rays of the sun. Consider bringing your pet inside during the hottest part of the day, which is usually between noontime and about 3 p.m.
If you like to take your pet for long walks, go when the ground is cool. If you’ve ever tried to walk on the hot pavement or sand without footwear, you’ll undoubtedly understand how uncomfortable it is for pets, too.
5. Be Aware of Heat Stroke
If a pet is exposed to excessive heat for too long, it can suffer or even die of heatstroke. Learn to recognise the signs. If you notice that your pet is breathing faster than normal, panting heavily, drooling more than usual, has a bright red tongue and gums, and is having trouble breathing, suspect that heat stroke is the problem.
Your pet may move slowly or stand with its legs noticeably spread out, as if it’s trying to maintain its balance. You may also notice that your pet’s eyes are sunken and glazed. Symptoms that indicate an emergency situation include lethargy or not being willing or able to move, gums and tongue that appear white or blue in colour, uncontrolled urination or defecation, and shock.
If for any reason, you suspect heatstroke, call your veterinarian immediately. Then begin cool down measures. Visit the vet-n-pet DIRECT Help Centre for more information on Heat Stroke.
5. Plan for Vacations
If you go on vacation, take your pet with you or find someone to take care of it. Pets like cats, fish, or reptiles may seem self-sufficient, but someone should check them at least once a day. Your pet could spill its food or water and become hungry or severely dehydrated after only a short period of time. Ask a friend or relative to make daily visits to check on your pet, or hire a pet sitter. Boarding is also an option to make sure your pet is safe and healthy. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation and visit the various pet boarders to see which one would be ideal for your pet.
If you plan to take your pet with you, make sure it has a current pet tag and/or is microchipped. Take all medications and health records along, just in case it gets sick. Use a leash and take a current photo with you in case it wanders off in unfamiliar territory and gets lost.
6. Prevent Parasites
Use flea and tick products and follow the directions carefully. Ask your veterinarian about heartworm prevention medications, too. Keep your grass mowed to reduce insect infestations. Check your pet for ticks at least once a day. Remove pet droppings and dispose of uneaten pet food left outdoors as soon as you can, to keep from attracting biting flies and other insects.
7. Travel Safely with Pets
Leave your pet home when you go to crowded summer events like concerts, fairs and fireworks. Loud noises and crowds, combined with heat and humidity, can be stressful and dangerous to your pet.
Don’t let your dog ride with its head sticking out of the car window. Flying debris or low-hanging branches can result in injury. Keep you pet in the car security with a pet seatbelt instead. Never let your pet to ride in the back bed of a truck. If you have to stop or swerve abruptly, or are involved in an accident, your pet could end up in the roadway and be hurt. It’s a good idea to add a sunshade to your car windows. Bring along fresh water, a bowl, and a tarp or tent, so you can create a shady spot when you stop off for a rest. Keep a spray bottle filled with water to cool your pet down, if necessary.
Never leave your pet in a parked vehicle for any amount of time. Don’t mistakenly think that a cracked window is going to keep a vehicle cool in the summertime heat and intense sunlight. Remember, it only takes 15 minutes of excessive heat to cause brain and organ damage. If you see an animal in a vehicle parked in front of a business or restaurant in the summer, alert the manager. Call the police or animal control officer if the animal’s owner doesn’t come back in a reasonably short amount of time. Time is important because, for example, if the temperature is just 29 degrees Celsius outside, the inside of a car can rise to a temperature of between 49 and 54 degrees in just minutes, even if you open the windows slightly.
A special note on motor homes: if you leave your pet in a motor home with the generator running, have someone come by and check it occasionally. Generators can malfunction with tragic consequences. Take extra precautions by leaving a window or door open and running an exhaust fan.
If you enjoy bringing your pet along when you go boating, make sure they wear a life jacket, just in case they fall off the boat accidentally.
8. Make an Escape Plan
Summer is when you and your family tend to go in and out of your home more often. It’s also when both you and your pet spend much more time outside. Both circumstances create an opportunity for escape, so make sure your pet’s tags are up to date. Keep a current photo of your pet handy and consider a microchip for your pet.
Leash your pet when it’s outside with you. This will not only prevent the loss of your pet, but it will also keep it from eating or drinking substances that will make it sick. This will also make sure that your pet won’t encounter, chase or fight with another animal.
Be considerate and spay or neuter your pet. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date, as well.
9. Special Considerations
Pets that are brachycephalic, or short-faced, don’t pant as efficiently as other animals and therefore have a much harder time dealing with oppressive heat. Keep them inside with air-conditioning when it’s hot outside.
Other pets that are extra-susceptible to hot weather and need special considerations include elderly pets, very young pets, pets dealing with illness such as respiratory diseases, overweight animals, and thick or dark coated animals.
Keep your pet away from fertilized lawns and gardens. Some plant food, fertilizer and insecticides can be fatal to animals. In addition, there are hundreds of plants toxic to animals. Be thoughtful and put signs on your lawn if you treat it with chemicals.
With a little preparation, summertime can be both fun and safe for your pet. So, keep these precautions in mind before you both venture out to enjoy the warmer months and you’ll have many unforgettable memories to share.