The Dog Days of Summer

Hot tips to keep your pets safe.

The Dog Days of Summer

Photo: Theresa Rickerby


I think the hazy, lazy days of summer delight my dog Jack as much as they delight me. So I make sure there is no downside to his enjoyment by keeping him safe from common summer hazards. The following tips will help keep your family’s dog or cat in tip-top shape too!

Keep them cool. Too much heat can be life threatening for pets. Their main way of regulating body temperature is through panting, which can be insufficient on a broiling summer day.

Always provide plenty of fresh water – in the house, in the backyard and during walks. Keep your house at a comfortable temperature and provide shade outside. Only exercise your pet in the early morning or early evening.

Leave your pet at home, not in the car alone, on trips to the store or doctor. Even in the shade with windows down, the temperature in a car can jump 10-15 degrees in 15 minutes.

Watch for signs of heat stress and heat stroke. Dogs with short noses, heavy coats and heart or respiratory problems are particularly at risk. Signs include: excessive panting, disorientation, vomiting, dark or bright red tongue, dry mouth, a high body temperature (from 104-110 F), and unconsciousness.

If you think your pet is overheating, take her to a shaded area and wrap cool wet fabric around her head and feet. Offer ice cubes to lick and provide water. Call your vet immediately if you suspect heat stroke.

Prevent exposure to toxic lawn chemicals. Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides on grass can poison pets and cause irreparable damage to kidneys and liver. So how do you know where your dog can safely romp? At the park, look for dandelions. Their appearance usually means no chemicals have been used. At home, check for the small flags indicating pesticide use on neighbour’s lawns and keep your animals away. Needless to say, don’t use these chemicals on your own lawn. Find a safe alternative.

Call the vet when you see symptoms of poisoning including nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, twitching, weakness, collapse, irritability and seizures.

Practise water safety. Not all dogs are natural swimmers. Stocky, short nosed breeds such as Boston Terriers, Frenchies and Bulldogs can have difficulty swimming, especially when the water is rough. It’s best to use a canine flotation device for these breeds, and for dogs that are young, have arthritis or joint issues, and travel on boats. Watch for signs of fatigue when your dog is swimming.

Check for water quality before letting your dog swim. High bacteria levels are just as harmful to dogs as they are to humans, causing skin irritation, and eye and bladder infections. As an extra precaution always rinse your dog in clean water after a day at the lake or pond.

Keep bugs at bay. Along with the warm weather comes the increased risk of your dog and cat bringing home unwanted visitors. Biting insects can be more than just a nuisance. Mosquitos can carry heartworm, fleas can cause allergic reactions and tapeworms, and ticks can carry lime disease.

To keep your pet bug free, use natural insect repellants designed specifically for dogs and cats. Spray before each outing and reapply as necessary, paying special attention to the leather of the ears, the underbelly and areas not protected by hair.

Be sure to do a thorough check of your dog or cat for ticks when you get home. If you find one, remove the entire insect right away using a tick key, a device that is simple to use and readily available at most pet stores and veterinarians.

Carry a pet travel kit. Be prepared when heading outdoors this summer with a pet travel kit that includes: insect repellant, a tick key, life jacket, water and bowl, pet safe sun screen (for short haired breeds and sensitive areas such as erect ears and noses), vet wrap bandage for unexpected injuries, and some extra special treats.

Author: Theresa Rickerby

Theresa Rickerby is co-owner of All Creatures Great and Small;

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