Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Safety for Your Dog

Summer is coming and “THE HEAT IS ON!” Helpful tips to keep your favorite Fido safe and comfortable when the mercury rises.

In summertime dogs (and cats) can suffer from the same problems that humans do - overheating, dehydration and even sunburn. By taking some simple precautions, you can enjoy the season and keep your pooch happy and healthy.

- A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must; add to that a test for heartworm, if your dog isn't on year-round preventive medication.
- Do parasites pester your pooch? Ask your veterinarian to recommend a safe, effective flea and tick control program.
- NEVER leave your dog alone in a vehicle! Hyperthermia (overheating) can be fatal. A parked automobile becomes a furnace in hot weather. Even with the windows open, temperatures within the vehicle can soar to over 120 in no time. Parking in the shade is not the answer. While the shade of a nice tree may offer some protection, don’t forget, the sun shifts during the day and a car originally parked in the shade may end up in full sun.
- NEVER walk or play with Fido in the height of the sun. The right time for playtime is in the cooler early morning or evening but NOT after a meal or when the weather is humid.
- Street smarts: When the temperature is high or the sun is strong, don’t let your dog stand on hot asphalt. His or her body can heat up quickly and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum. An easy way to check the asphalt is with the back of your hand. If it’s uncomfortable for you, it’s too hot for Fido.
- Street smarts: When walking your dog, avoid areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals.
- Street smarts: Be alert for coolant or other automotive fluid leaking from vehicles and keep Rover away. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste but ingesting just a small amount can be fatal. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect that your animal has been poisoned.
- Always carry a thermos filled with cold, fresh water when traveling with your pet.
- Provide fresh water and plenty of shade for animals kept outdoors; a properly constructed & vented doghouse will serve well. Canopies and canopy tents are another way to offer shade for your pet. Add a small wading pool with 2-3 inches of water to give your dog another cooling option.
- Bring your dog (or cat) inside during the hotter part of the day to rest in a cool part of the house. Cellars and basements are excellent for a cool reprieve without air-conditioning.
- Be especially sensitive to older and overweight animals in hot weather.
- Brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
- Good grooming can stave off summer skin problems, especially for dogs with heavy coats. Trimming the hair to a one-inch length helps prevent overheating. NEVER shave your pooch down to the skin - it robs Rover of his natural sun protection.
- Do NOT apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
- Having a backyard barbecue? Always keep matches, lighter fluid, citronella candles and insect coils out of Rover’s reach.
- Please make sure that there are no open, unscreened windows or doors in your home through which animals can fall or jump.

Stay alert for signs of overheating in pets, which include excessive panting and/or drooling, lethargy, weakness, red tongue and elevated body temperature.

For many families, summertime means swimming time. If your pooch will be joining you on your waterhole adventures, please follow these tips:

- A day at the beach is a no-no, unless you can guarantee a shaded spot and plenty of fresh water for your companion.
- Salty dogs should be rinsed off after a dip in the ocean.
- DON’T ASSUME all dogs can swim! Some dogs are NOT good swimmers and longhaired dogs may struggle against the weight of their soaked hair to keep afloat. If water sports are a big part of your family, please introduce your dog to water gradually and consider using canine flotation devices.
- Do NOT leave pets unsupervised around a pool. Too many unsupervised dogs have met with tragedy around the pool. Even the best swimmers are at risk if unsupervised.
- Rinse your pool-swimming pooch with fresh water after a dip – chlorine and other chemicals can irritate the skin if not thoroughly rinsed off.
- Try not to let your dog drink pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that can cause GI upset.
- Make sure all pets wear flotation devices on boats.

Be smart and consider your pet when making your summertime plans. Think ahead and be prepared by stocking a “doggy bag” with food, cool fresh water, bowls, flotation device, first-aid kit, towels, umbrella, leash and toys and you will be prepared for almost anything!