Dogs and cats love the summer for the same reasons we do: the sunshine, the laid-back attitude and even the vacations, if they're invited. But there are also some specific hot-weather pet hazards you should be aware of. Here are six easy tips that will help keep your faithful friend safe this season:
Reduce Swimming Risks for Your Dog
Some breeds, like retrievers, are made for the water. Others aren’t so swim savvy, but may be drawn to pools and bodies of water anyway (cats generally hate getting wet, so they're less of a risk). Treat non-swimmers as you would a toddler, and don’t let them near water unsupervised. If your pup enjoys boat rides, purchase a doggie flotation device such as those made by Outward Hound and Ruff Wear (not a run-of-the-mill life preserver like the one pictured at right). If your pet can swim, consider installing a pool ladder or ramp that’s specifically designed to help him or her get out of the pool. (Try Paws Aboard or Skamper Ramp.)
Keep Pets on a Leash
It can be tempting to let your dog or cat roam free on lazy summer days, but don’t do it. More pets are lost, hit by cars and even eaten by backyard predators like coyotes during the warmer months. Keep your pet leashed or well-supervised in a fenced-in area.
Provide Sun Protection for Your Animal
Animals, especially those with white or short fur, can get sunburn and skin cancer just like you can. Close the shades if your pet is home alone all day, and apply sunscreen to sensitive areas, such as the thin skin on the ears. (Ask your vet before choosing a sunscreen to make sure it’s pet-friendly.)
Keep Pets Hydrated
As a rule of thumb, pets should be given around 50 percent more drinking water than usual on hot summer days to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Head Off Heat Stroke
Don’t leave your pet outside with no shade for extended periods and never leave him in a car—even for a few minutes, even with the windows cracked. Cars heat up very fast, essentially acting like an oven. If your pet shows signs of heat stroke — a dazed look in the eyes, a red tongue with curled-up edges—apply a cool (not cold) wet washcloth to the paws for about 15 minutes and call your vet.
Patrol for Poisons
More time spent outside means a greater likelihood that your pet will encounter toxic substances — like antifreeze dripping from a car or rat poison in the park. Both are extremely dangerous and another reason to keep the leash on. If you think your pet may have ingested something suspicious, call the vet immediately.
Traveling With Pets: Safety Tips
Bringing your furry friend along on vacation can add to the fun. Just remember to:
Practice, Practice, Practice
About a month before a plane trip, place your pet in his carrier (with a treat) and leave him alone for a few minutes several times a week, building up to the length of your flight. (This will reassure him that you’ll be reunited even after a long period.) Make sure the carrier has a label with your name and phone numbers, in case your pet gets lost along the way, and carry a current health certificate signed by your vet.
Keep queasiness at bay
Feed your pet lightly the morning of the day you’re going to travel. If she’s prone to car sickness, a spoonful of molasses mixed with some mashed ginger root may help keep her stomach settled.
Any car rules that apply to your children should also apply to your pets. That means don’t let your dog hang his head out the window (flying debris often results in eye injuries) and keep him contained in his crate or in a car seat that's designed for pets.
Babette Gladstein, V.M.D., is a New York City-based veterinarian.
From our sister publication, REMEDY, Summer 2011