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Summer Safety Tips For Pets

Author: DVM cVMA Dana Hogg

Warm weather is finally upon us! It is time to get into the great outdoors, go on adventures, and make new memories. Of course, we can’t forget our furry family members at home. In preparation for the summer activities, let’s talk about some warm weather safety tips for our pets. 

 Lookout For Heatstroke While Having Fun In The Sun

Pay close attention to the heat and humidity each day before walking your pet. Animals do not have nearly as many sweat glands as we do, which makes cooling off more challenging. Heatstroke is an all-too-common, preventable emergency seen in the summer. Heatstroke is exposure to an excessive amount of heat leading to heat exhaustion. While all animals can overheat, brachycephalic breeds like pugs and bulldogs, arctic breeds like the Siberian Husky, or overweight pets are more predisposed. Some medical conditions such as laryngeal paralysis and cardiovascular disease can also increase susceptibility to heat exhaustion. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, stumbling, generalized weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse. If you are concerned your pet may be experiencing heatstroke, please get them to a veterinarian immediately. Avoid placing ice on your pet. Ice actually traps more heat in their body. Instead, you could place cool damp cloths over them while in transit to your veterinarian. 

Let’s review some tips to help prevent your pet from overheating. With high temperatures, it is always important to first touch the pavement with your barefoot or hand. If it feels too hot for your skin, it is too hot for your pet’s feet. Plan walks in the early morning or late evening (as needed) to avoid thermal burns and heat exhaustion. Avoid allowing your pet to overexert themselves while playing. Always pack clean, cool water for your pet to stay hydrated and ensure there are some shaded areas where you are going.

Snakes, Bees, Ticks, and Fleas – Oh My!  

Tick and flea prevention is always recommended, no matter where you are in the country. Not only can these ectoparasites hurt your pet, but they can also bite you. Ticks can carry some nasty diseases such as Lyme disease, but fleas are also hosts for dangerous bacteria and viruses. If fleas try to move in with you it can take months of rigorous cleaning to fully kick them out. Flea and tick prevention is recommended year-round to keep these pesky parasites off your pet and out of your living space.

Snakes love the warmer weather too, and that means snake bites can occur anytime throughout the summer. Copperheads and Rattlesnakes are two notoriously venomous species, but there are certainly many more to watch out for. Always familiarize yourself with where you are going before taking your pet. If you are traveling somewhere new, research what snakes and other predators may be native to the area. Do not allow your pet to walk in thick brush, dig under rocks, or explore holes in the ground since there are likely living creatures in there or very close by.  

Bees are not the only insects that can sting. Monitoring your pet outside can help reduce the risk of being stung, however, it is hard to completely prevent this since some stinging insects make homes underground. While it is hopeful that an antihistamine alone will help, seeking veterinarian attention is always recommended as sting wounds can range from simple swelling to rare but serious reactions.   

Enjoy A Summer Swim But Beware The Blue-Green!

Swimming is a great exercise for everyone. While you should always be on the lookout for dangerous objects such as hooks, glass, and other debris that can cause cuts, there is another aquatic danger to look out for. Are you familiar with Blue-green Algae? Blue-green Algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are commonly found in nutrient-rich lakes, ponds, and streams(1). 

 The warm weather and sunlight cause Blue-green Algae to reproduce, grow, and bloom. Some of these blooms, but not all, can be toxic to animals and people leading to generalized illness (1).  Depending on the toxin produced, you may see nerve involvement leading to generalized weakness, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and death, or liver involvement leading to abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and death (1). 

Blue-green Algae looks like a green substance floating on the water surface and it may also have a blue tint to it. However, there are several types of algae that look similar. When in doubt, stay out of the water. If you prefer the ocean over the lakes, that is quite all right. Just pay attention to whether your pet is consuming any saltwater. Consumption of saltwater can lead to salt toxicity which needs immediate medical attention. 

Time To Celebrate! 

We all love summer gatherings and cookouts! If you feel the need to allow your pet to enjoy the food festivities as well, pack them some healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables. Avoid greasy, high-fat foods to help prevent gastrointestinal upset. Determine whether a get-together may involve loud noises such as fireworks and plan accordingly. If your pet has a noise phobia, let them skip out on the event or at least secure them in a safe place in the house. You can also contact your veterinarian for additional supplements or medications which may help further reduce anxiety related to noise.

Grow Your Garden - Guard The Toxins

Gardening can be so therapeutic, no matter if you are planting vegetables, flowers, trees, or shrubs. Sadly, some of the most beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables we enjoy can be toxic to our pets if consumed. While it is nearly impossible to go through the entire list of toxic plants, some common ones often seen this time of year include Lilies, Azaleas, and Rhododendrons. As for those garden vegetables, plants of the Nightshade family such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers can cause gastrointestinal upset if consumed. Allium species, such as garlic and onions, can cause anemia. If your pet tends to test out their green thumb (paw) in the garden, you may want to put up a fence to help prevent access. Always be cautious when using fertilizers and mulch since they can contain toxic chemicals. If your pet has ingested a plant and you are concerned it might be toxic, visit the ASPCA poison control website to look it up.    

Summer is about enjoying the beauty of the outdoors, spending time with loved ones, and creating life-long memories. Just remember to plan ahead so you are prepared to maximize safety and fun for both you and your pets.

Sources
  • “Blue-green Algae | Washington State Department of Health.” Washington State Department of Health, doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/contaminants/blue-green-algae. Accessed 8 May 2022.

Dr. Dana Hogg graduated in 2015 from North Carolina State University. She grew up in Wilson, North Carolina. Growing up with several animals, Dr. Hogg was drawn to the field of veterinary medicine at a young age. She completed her undergraduate degree at NCSU in 2009 and her master's degree in 2011.

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