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8 Tips For a Pet Safe Summer

Keep your cat or dog healthy and happy when the temperature starts to rise

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The arrival of warmer weather means sunny days, longer walks, outdoor adventures and road trips with your four-legged friends. But spending more time outside also puts pets at higher risk of exposure to several health hazards.

While you should take your pet to your veterinarian for a seasonal checkup to get them up to date with preventative care, says Antje Joslin, veterinary consultant for Dogtopia dog daycare centers, there are also steps you can take to make sure you’re keeping them safe day-to-day. 

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Follow these eight tips to keep your pet safe during warmer weather.

Protect against parasites

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Fleas and ticks can bother pets all year, but the populations are highest in many climates in the late spring through fall.

The creepy crawlies don’t just have a major ick factor; they can also cause a host of health issues.

Fleas make pets itchy and can lead to hair loss, skin issues, anemia and tapeworm while ticks can transmit diseases like Lyme disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Prevention is key for protecting your pet. Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary medical advisor for Rover pet sitting and dog walking service and owner of Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital in Kleinburg, Ontario, suggests talking to your veterinarian about topical or oral monthly preventive medications that protect against parasites.

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Hide from the heat 

Dogs and cats wear fur coats all year long, and since pets don’t sweat like humans but rather dissipate heat through panting, it’s difficult for them to regulate their body temperatures, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). As a result, high temperatures can be dangerous for your pets.

“People consistently overestimate their pet’s heat tolerance,” says Greenstein. “The safest bet is to go out in the early morning or later in the evening to avoid peak temperatures.” 

Your pet should also have access to shade and lots of fresh, cool water when they are outside, adds Anthony Coronado, veterinarian and vice president of emergency medicine at Thrive Pet Healthcare nationwide clinics.

If you notice frantic panting, excess salivation or other signs your pet is overheating, Coronado suggests moving them to a cooler temperature (like an air-conditioned house) and applying lukewarm cloths to areas like the armpits and stomachs where skin is exposed. It’s also a good idea to seek immediate veterinary care.

When pets overheat, they could suffer from heatstroke. The signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, dry or sticky gums, lethargy, disorientation and seizures; heatstroke can be fatal.

Certain pets, including those that are overweight, elderly or have pre-existing health conditions, are especially at risk. The risk of heatstroke is also higher in flat-faced breeds such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs because they have restricted airways.  If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, seek immediate veterinary care, Greenstein advises.

Stay safe on the road

An estimated 78 percent of pet owners travel with their pets each year, according to a 2023 study.  While there are no rules about restraining pets in cars, there are recommendations to keep pets safe, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) -- including keeping them in a crate, pet seatbelt or pet car seat to minimize the risk of injuries in the event of an accident. 

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Unrestrained pets are a distraction to drivers and can cause serious injuries to pets and passengers in the event of an accident, according to a study published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine. Coronado also advises against letting dogs travel in the back of pickup trucks because of the risk of falling out, and no matter how much your pet loves feeling the wind in their fur, they should never be allowed to ride with their head out the window.

“One of the most common sources of eye injuries is dogs with their heads out the window,” Coronado says. “They can get hit by something flying in the air [that was] kicked up by the car in front of you or even a bug that hits them.”

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Steer clear of hot cars

The temperature inside your car can rise to dangerous levels quickly — even when it’s cool outside. CDC data shows that on an 80-degree day the temperature inside a vehicle with the windows closed can reach 109°F after 20 minutes and 123°F after 60 minutes. 

Pets can die from heat exhaustion or heatstroke, even if the windows are cracked and they are left alone for a few minutes, according to the AVMA.

“A pet should never be left alone in a car, period,” Coronado says, adding that it’s better to leave your pet at home when you run errands to keep them safe.  

Shield skin and paws

You might need to slather on sunscreen before taking your pets outside on sunny days. Certain pets, particularly those with light-colored, short or thin fur are at risk of sunburn, says Joslin.

You can prevent sunburn by limiting sun exposure during peak hours, providing shaded areas, and discouraging your dog or cat from spending too much time sunbathing outdoors, says the AKC. Joslin also recommends using pet-safe sunscreen on exposed areas or skin and considering lightweight protective clothing for pets who are at high risk of sunburn.

It’s also important to protect your pets’ paws when it’s hot outside.

“A general rule is when the outside temperature is above 85°F, you should be cautious about pavement temperature,” Joslin adds.

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Test the surface temperature of the sidewalk, asphalt or parking lot with the back of your hand; if it's too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet's paws. Joslin suggests walking your dog during cooler times of the day, sticking with grassy areas and considering protective booties to help prevent paw burns.

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Soothe seasonal allergies

Pets, like people, can suffer with seasonal allergies. Certain breeds, including boxers, Boston terriers, Lhasa Apsos and golden retrievers, are more prone to allergies, but all breeds can suffer with environmental allergies, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

Coronado notes that excessive licking and scratching are often the first signs that your pet is experiencing allergies. Your vet can recommend possible treatments to help alleviate symptoms.

You should make an appointment with your vet to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment for seasonal allergies, but Greenstein notes that regular baths or using pet wipes on coats and paws can reduce the allergens on their fur. 

“Many veterinary dermatologists recommend frequent vacuuming and the use of HEPA filters [to reduce allergens] in your home,” she adds.

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Watch water safety reports

Taking a dip in a lake or river is a favorite summer pastime for some dogs, but not all water is safe. An overgrowth of algal blooms in lakes, ponds or other freshwater can cause blue-green algae poisoning in pets.  Dogs that swim in or drink water that contains these cyanotoxins can experience vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness, muscle tremors, seizures and even sudden death.

“Blue-green algae is a very toxic product that does bloom during warm periods, and you don't always know that it's there,” Coronado says.

He suggests checking with local water reports (most municipalities publish them online) for information on the presence of blue-green algae before letting your dog swim or drink from local waterways. Kiddie pools, sprinklers and pet splash pads are the safest options for your water-loving dogs to cool off in the summer.

Keep a close watch on your pets at the beach

“Dogs can be knocked over or dragged under by ocean waves and currents,” says Joslin.

The AKC says to consider putting a life jacket on your dog when spending time at the beach, or on docks or boats. And make sure that your dog is drinking lots of freshwater (not saltwater) and not eating seaweed, sea creatures or other items that have washed ashore.

Warmer weather offers a lot of opportunities to explore the outdoors with your pet, and knowing how to keep them safe is the key to enjoying the spring and summer seasons.

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