Protect Your Pets

Tips and tricks for a healthy summer with your pet
By Samantha Fischer

As the dog days of summer steadily approach, we’re ready to gear up for picnics, beaches, and traveling—and so are our pets. When letting our pets tag along to summer events, we must remember to keep their health and safety in mind. Here are some tips to help keep your furry friends happy and healthy this season.

HYDRATE

Summer’s unrelenting heat makes it extremely crucial to keep your pets hydrated and cool to avoid overheating. By staying conscious of the heat and taking the necessary precautions, you’ll stay on top of your pet’s needs. Try to schedule walks during the coolest parts of the day—ideal times are early in the morning or in the late evening right before the sun goes down. A midday stroll will leave both of you exposed to the sun and heat, and hot pavement can also burn the pads of your pet’s paws. Bring water along for both of you, and if one of you needs to slow down, take it easy and find shade to rest.

Keeping your pet cool also requires that you do not leave him unattended in the car for any amount of time—even with the windows down or the air conditioning on. If it’s 85 degrees outside, the temperature in a vehicle with the windows cracked can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes, and 120 degrees within 30 minutes. If you have to run errands via automobile, consider leaving Fido at home.

BUG OFF!

Ticks and fleas run rampant during summer months. What starts as a lovely summer day could quickly turn sour if you aren’t on the lookout for these pests. Remember: Our pets can’t protect themselves like people can, so engaging in pest prevention ensures a great summer for everyone.

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends inspecting dogs and cats thoroughly for ticks when returning indoors. If you do find a tick, remove it with a slow, steady pull so you do not break off the mouthparts and leave them in the skin. If possible, it’s best to use forceps or tweezers and grab on or just behind the tick’s mouth. Once removed, wash your hands and the attachment site thoroughly with soap and water.

To avoid ticks, keep the grass in your yard cut low, including areas around fence lines, sheds, trees, shrubs, swing sets, and other difficult-to-cut locations. You can also speak to a vet about getting a tick collar.

Dogs and cats most often get fleas by coming into contact with other animals or by spending time outside. The most common flea symptom is itching, but more sensitive animals can experience hair loss, inflammation, and secondary skin infections. Fleas can quickly multiply, so it’s beneficial to take precautionary measures to avoid a big problem in the home. NPMA experts encourage pet owners to bathe their pets frequently; wash human and pet bedding, pet collars, and plush toys often; and vacuum carpets, floors, and furniture regularly.

SUN PROTECTION

Pets that have white hair, or little to no hair, are very sensitive to the sun and may suffer from sunburns, or even skin cancer—just like their human counterparts. The nose, tips of ears, belly, and groin areas are especially susceptible to sun irritation.

When sunscreen shopping, purchase a product specifically made for animals because some human sunscreens contain harmful chemicals that could be dangerous, or even deadly, if ingested. It’s important to be pet-specific as well; some sunscreens made for dogs contain toxins not suitable for cats and vice versa. Check your local pet store and choose sunscreens that are FDA-approved.

TRAVEL COMPANIONS

Summer is prime time for road trips and vacations. Taking the furriest member of the family along has its challenges, but following a few basic guidelines will keep you and your little buddy safe.

Make sure your pet is secure when riding in a vehicle. Dogs can be restrained with a seatbelt harness, and cats should be contained in a crate secured by a seatbelt. A 25-pound dog becomes a force of 1,000 pounds in a 40-mph crash, and a cat who is roaming freely could get tangled in the driver’s feet or distract the driver from the road.

If you get out of the car to go exploring, keep your pet on a leash to reduce its chance for injury and avoid bad interactions with other people and their pets. Also make sure they are wearing a collar—complete with a name tag and your contact information—in case you get separated.

Always practice good pet etiquette in public places and clean up after them. Stash some eco-friendly pick-up bags in your car or travel bag, and dispose of them properly after use.

Keeping these tips in mind during the summer months is a great start to ensuring the health and happiness of your pet. For any questions regarding the safety and well-being of your pet all year round, contact your veterinarian.