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The dog days of summer are upon us requiring extra care and attention to your pet’s safety. Summertime means more time spent outdoors for you and your pets. From fleas and ticks to overheating and dehydration, it is important to be vigilant and prepared. Understanding the risks our pets face in the hot weather and educating yourself on how to mitigate those risks means everyone in your family can enjoy the carefree days of summer.

Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites present significant risks to our pets in the summer months. They are everywhere and they carry tapeworms, heart worms, and diseases such as Bartonella, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and West Nile Virus. Effective preventions can keep your pet parasite free and healthy.

Just like humans, pets are at risk for heatstroke and dehydration. When your pet is outdoors, make sure she has plenty of shade and fresh water. Don’t take your dog out for a jog or bike ride in the middle of the day when temperatures are their highest. Try to do these activities in the morning or evening. Short-nosed or brachycephalic dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Pekingese, or dogs with double-thick or long hair are especially susceptible to becoming overheated.

When you are out running errands, it is always better to leave your pet at home during the hot summer months. Never leave your pet in your car when the weather is warm and definitely not when it is hot. Even a car parked in the shade can reach dangerous temperatures on a hot day. Experiments have shown on a mild 72 degrees day that the temperature inside of a car can reach 116 degrees in an hour. This is more than hot enough to kill a dog. The safest choice is to leave your dog at home. Dogs control their body temperature by panting. If the air in the car is near or above a dog’s body temperature which is about 100 degrees, they will not be able to cool themselves. Their body temperature can quickly rise to over 107 degrees which is a fatal level.

Heatstroke symptoms in dogs include agitation, disorientation, heavy panting, lethargy, rapid heart beat, vomiting, and seizures. Coma and death follow. If you suspect a dog is suffering from heatstroke, stay calm. Move them to shade or indoors to air conditioning immediately. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck, and chest. You can also immerse them in cool, not cold, water to lower their body temperature. You may also give small amounts of water or let them lick an ice cube. Heatstroke can be fatal so it is important to get your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Our pets can get sunburned too. Susceptible areas include exposed skin that is white or pink or where their fur is thin. Protect them by avoiding direct sun. You can also use sunscreen especially formulated for pets.

Be aware of poisonous plants and all bulbs which are toxic to pets. Antifreeze leaks on driveways and garage floors should be cleaned immediately because it is deadly to pets. Fertilizers, cocoa mulch, and pesticides on lawns pose a hazard to your pet. Don’t allow your dog to wander into other yards where chemicals may have been used. They could pose a significant risk to your pet. If you think your pet may have been ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call  ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and are your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency.

Wildlife such as coyotes, raccoons, and skunks pose a danger to your pet. Be aware that while walking or hiking with your dog, you could potentially encounter wildlife. Always be alert for these critters.

Foxtails and burrs in summer grasses can get caught in paws or fur and work their way into or through skin and potentially harm your pet. Check your pet’s fur after being outside to ensure it’s free of these items. Other sharp items such as fishing hooks and lines are more prevalent in summer months and could pose a risk to your pet. Keep these and other sharp items out of your pet’s path.

Summer drives with the windows or top down are a fun way to enjoy the warm weather. As much as your pet likes to be your co-pilot on these drives, it is important to consider their safety. Every year thousands of dogs are injured or killed from jumping or falling from a vehicle. Even if your windows are closed, your pet can be thrown and possibly injured if you suddenly step on your brakes, The safest place for your pet is the back seat, either wearing a safety harness or riding in their carrier. Cats should always be placed in their carrier when riding in a car. They will feel safer and are secure when you open your car door. If your pet is loose in your car, they could distract you from the serious job of driving safely. If you must put your dog in a truck bed, please use a carrier or safely secure them to prevent injuries.

It is important to always be prepared. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with identifying information should they become loose or lost. Microchipping your pet is a safe and effective way to protect your pet if they become lost. Keep a first aid kit on hand in case of emergencies. There are special kits available specifically for cats and dogs.

Everyone wants to relax and enjoy the summer, including our pets. Being aware of and prepared for potential hazards the warm weather presents to your pet, will allow you to kick back, relax, and enjoy all that summer brings!