Protect Your Pet from Summer Bummers

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This article is by Babette Gladstein, V.M.D. for Remedy Magazine Summer 2011

Dogs and cats love the summer for the same reasons we do: the sunshine, the laid-back attitude and even the vacations, if they’re invited. But there are also some specific hot-weather pet hazards you should be aware of. Here are six easy tips that will help keep your faithful friend safe this season:

  • Rein them in It can be tempting to let your pal roam free on lazy summer days, but don’t do it. More pets are lost, hit by cars and even eaten by backyard predators like coyotes during the warmer months. Keep him leashed or well-supervised in a fenced-in area.
  • Provide sun protection Animals, especially those with white or short fur, can get sunburn and skin cancer just like you can. Close the shades if your pet is home alone all day, and apply sunscreen to sensitive areas, such as the thin skin on the ears. (Ask your vet before choosing a sunscreen to make sure it is pet-friendly.)
  • Keep the water flowing As a  rule of thumb, pets should be given 50 percent more drinking water than usual on hot summer days to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • Reduce swimming risks Some breeds, like retrievers, are made for the water. Others aren’t so swim-savvy, but may be drawn to pools and bodies of water anyway (cats generally hate getting wet, so they’re less of a risk). Treat non-swimmers as you would a toddler, and don’t let them near water unsupervised. If your pup enjoys boat rides, purchase a doggie flotation device such as those made by Outward Hound and Ruff Wear. If your pet can swim, consider installing a pool ladder or ramp that’s specifically designed to help him or her get out of the pool. (Try Paws Aboard or Skamper Ramp.)
  • Head off heat stroke Don’t leave your pet outside with no shade for extended periods and never leave him in a car–even for a few minutes, even with the windows cracked. Cars heat up very fast, essentially acting like an oven. If your pet shows signs of heat stroke–a dazed look in the eyes, a red tongue with curled-up edges–apply a cool (not cold) wet washcloth to the paws for about 15 minutes and call your vet.
  • Patrol for poisons More time spent outside means a greater likelihood that your pet will encounter toxic substances–like antifreeze dripping from a car or rat posion in the park. Both are extremely dangerous and another reason to keep the leash on . If you think your pet may have ingested something suspicious, call the vet immediately.

Got a pet question, you can email Babette at remedymag@remedyhealthmedia.com