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The Dog Days of Summer

Summer Pet Safety Tips

Article by Dr. Andrew Marsh & Dr. Katie King

Photography by New Light Creative Services

Originally published in Fairfield Lifestyle

With summer’s long, sunny days, it’s the time of year we relish spending time outside with our family, friends, and furry companions. Walks & hikes, trips to the beach, picnics and barbecues - the outdoors is calling! 

While we’re having fun in the sun, it’s important to remember that summer can pose certain safety risks for pets. Follow these tips to help ensure happy, healthy pups in the dog days of summer!

  1. Be mindful of heat and humidity - In the heat of the season even controlled exercise, but especially strenuous activity poses a risk for heatstroke. Dogs cannot sweat (except from the small surface area on the underside of their paws) so their primary form of temperature regulation comes from panting. Dogs pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. In hot weather, and particularly if humidity is high, it’s difficult for dogs to cool themselves effectively and a rising core body temperature can lead to serious and even life threatening illness. This is especially true for brachycephalic dogs (such as bulldogs and pugs) as well as dogs with excessive weight, tracheal collapse, laryngeal paralysis, and cardiac disease. Be sure to take water with you on walks, take plenty of breaks, and avoid exercise in the hottest parts of the day. If you're beginning to sweat, know that your pet is working twice as hard to maintain a safe core body temperature and discretion is needed. This leads us to the next tip.

  2. Never leave pets in an unattended parked car - This may be obvious, but the danger cannot be overstated. Temperatures can rise rapidly to life-threatening levels. Leaving windows cracked is not enough to sufficiently cool the inside of a vehicle. For example, on an 85 degree day with windows slightly cracked, temperatures inside a car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes and can soar to a scorching 120 degrees within 30 minutes. This can lead to heatstroke and even death if not attended to rapidly. 

  3. Know the signs of heatstroke - The summer heat can put both dogs and humans alike at higher risk for heatstroke. Heatstroke is an extremely dangerous rise in core body temperature that can lead to stomach upset, multiorgan failure, central nervous system dysfunction and death if not treated immediately. Signs include:

    • Extreme panting and profuse salivation

    • Deep red or purple colored gums/tongue

    • Incoordination

    • Confusion

    • Vomiting and/or diarrhea, which can be bloody in nature

    • Seizures

    • Collapse

If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, call your vet immediately and begin cooling. Evaporative cooling is the best way to reduce body temp. Misting your dog, but not dowsing or submerging them, with cool or room temperature (NOT cold) water and placing them in front of a fan is recommended. Allow them to drink small amounts of water. Drive to the veterinary hospital with the air conditioner on and/or windows rolled down. Rapid treatment is critical for a successful outcome.

           4. Watch the pavement - Don’t forget that the streets and sidewalks can get extremely hot during the heat of the day and can burn pets’ paw pads! It’s best to walk on grass or schedule exercise with your four-legged friend earlier or later in the day when temperatures are cooler. As a rule of thumb, if you're not able to persistently hold the back of your hand against the surface without discomfort, it is not safe to walk on. Further, when adding friction through running or playing on even just moderately warm surfaces, such as a tennis court or the area around a pool, it is common for pets to develop painful heat-friction abrasions on their pads. 

5. A word of caution with the water hose  - During the hottest part of the day when it’s too hot to exercise, water play for your dog is a great way to have fun and stay cool! But when reaching for the garden hose, never spray your dog (or yourself!) right away. Water inside a hose can reach temperatures of 140F when left sitting in extreme heat, which can cause severe burns. Let the hose run for a minute to evacuate the hot water before playing in the sprinkler, and for those water obsessed dogs, be sure that they don’t consume excessive amounts of water in a short time as this can lead to water intoxication. 

6. Pets can get sunburned too - Pets with short or thin coats and light skin are prone to sunburn. Sunburn can appear as red, irritated skin or hair loss with the most common sites being the bridge of the nose, ear tips, underside of the belly, and skin around the lips. Sunscreen products made specifically for pets can be used on dogs and cats to protect their skin. While some sunscreens made for infants and toddlers may be safe, avoid human sunscreens that have ingestion warnings because these products can be toxic if licked by a dog or cat.

7. Make sure to have Pet IDs and Microchips - As we enjoy the longer days and warm weather, there are more chances for your pet to wander off. Make sure your pet has a registered microchip as well as an ID tag with your contact info. If you know that your pet has a microchip but are uncertain if it’s registered with your current contact information, be sure to call the microchip company to find out. If you can’t remember which microchip company to call, you can find out by entering your pet’s microchip number in the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup tool at aaha.org.

8. Remember to give parasite preventatives - Although it's highly recommended to keep your pet on a safe and effective year-round parasite prevention program, this is particularly important in the warmer seasons, when mosquitos, fleas, and ticks are most active. These invertebrates are vectors for serious diseases, such as heartworm and Lyme disease, that can lead to devastating long-term health implications. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian to recommend safe, effective options tailored to your pet’s environment and needs.

9. Prep for storms and fireworks - Thunderstorms and fireworks are common in the summer and can be a stressful and scary experience for pets. Pet owners can help ease anxiety by making sure pets aren’t left alone, by creating a “noise shelter” for their pet in a quiet area away from doors and windows, and by talking to a veterinarian about naturopathic and pharmaceutical anti-anxiety options. For more helpful tips and advice, please check out our article on canine firework / thunderstorm phobia at greenfieldanimal.com

10. Dealing with allergies - Like humans, pets can be allergic to grasses, plants, and pollen. Allergies in dogs and cats typically manifest through itchy and inflamed skin, particularly with excessive licking, hotspots, ear and skin infections. They may also experience runny eyes and sneezing. If you suspect your pet has allergies, talk with your veterinarian to come up with a plan to help your pet remain comfortable this season. It’s worth mentioning that we also see an increase in acute allergic reactions this time of year, particularly to insect bites, with symptoms ranging from hives and facial swelling to anaphylactic shock. It would be wise to keep Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) on hand and if you notice these symptoms, please talk to a veterinarian right away.

We hope this article will help you and your pet enjoy a safe and wonderful summer season. From all of us at Greenfield Animal Hospital, we hope to see you out there spending time with your best friend on a beautiful summer day! 

Greenfield Animal Hospital 

212 Hillside Road

Fairfield, CT

greenfieldanimal.com

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