The smell of sweet summer is in the air—barbecues, thunderstorms, saltwater, and fireworks are some hallmark scents of this sizzling season. You know summer has truly arrived when the aroma of your neighbor’s barbecued ribs wafts over the fence and your dog is dripping with drool. While your pooch thinks it would be nice of your neighbor to invite you over for a slab of ribs, that tasty treat is off-limits for pets. Besides the hazards of rib bones, summer also holds many other threats for your furry pal. Follow these 10 tips to help your pet stay safe during the dog days of summer.
#1: Plan your pet’s exercise schedule to avoid the heat of the day
Before heading out for a fun-filled day of summer activities with your pet, check the forecast. Not only will high temperatures make your best friend miserable, so will excessive humidity. Temperature and humidity levels are often lowest early in the morning, making early morning exercise more comfortable for your pet, but late evening can also be cool enough. Avoid vigorous exercise and play during the middle of the afternoon, when the sun is at its peak.
#2: Know when to call it quits when playing outside with your pet
Some dogs are nonstop action and will play until they drop. Working breeds are excellent examples of this drive, and you must keep a close eye on your pet and know when to call it quits. While your pet still needs exercise in the heat of summer, choose low-intensity games or water activities to help keep your furry pal cool while playing.
#3: Always provide plenty of water, shade, and ventilation
When outdoors with your pet, provide three ingredients for a safe summer afternoon—water, shade, and ventilation. Ensure your best friend has plenty of cool, fresh water available at all times, and prevent them from drinking from the pool. Saltwater can also lead to toxicity if your dog inadvertently drinks too much when playing in the ocean’s waves, so monitor your pet closely around bodies of water. Besides fresh water, your pet needs a shady place to relax out of the sun, ideally with ample ventilation. While a shed or garage provides shade, these buildings can easily trap heat without proper ventilation, especially if there is no cooling breeze outside.
#4: Teach your pooch to accept a doggy life vest for water activities
Not all dogs are fortunate enough to instinctively know how to doggy paddle, and they can quickly get in over their head while swimming. If your pooch is prone to panicking when entering deep water, help keep your pup afloat with a doggy life vest. Practice first on dry land to ensure the proper fit and to acclimate your pet to wearing the vest, then stick close while in shallow water. Once your dog is comfortable in shallow water, you can head out on the boat and dive in for an invigorating swim. Always monitor your pet closely while in the water for any signs of trouble and pull your pup out if needed.
#5: Avoid sharing your plate with your pet at a cookout
Although it’s tough to turn down that begging gaze from your furry pal, it’s for their own good when they’re drooling over your plate filled with the taste of summer. Barbecued chicken, racks of ribs, juicy steaks, corn on the cob, hot dogs, and high-fat side dishes all pose a threat to your pet. Pasta salads full of mayonnaise and other high-fat foods can lead to life-threatening pancreatitis, while bones and corn cobs can create an intestinal obstruction that requires emergency surgery to remove. If you simply can’t say no to your best friend, you can share fresh veggies, small bites of melon, or lean pieces of meat, such as unseasoned chicken breast.
To satisfy your four-legged friend’s taste for treats during the sizzling summer, whip up some frosty treats for your pet to enjoy. Create a “pupsicle” by stuffing a rubber Kong with your pet’s favorite mixture of canned food, yogurt, peanut butter, tuna, veggies, and kibble, then sticking it in the freezer for a couple of hours. Cats will relish fishy-flavored Kong stuffing, or you can form kitty ice cubes made from tuna juice and water to cool off your pet.
#6: Create a haven for your pet during firework shows
Most pets do not appreciate firework shows as much as we do. In fact, many cower in fear, quivering in the bathtub or at the back of a closet during the explosive display. Minimize your pet’s stress by creating a sound-reducing bunker for your furry pal to curl up in during the Fourth of July festivities. Choose a small room to furnish with all your pet’s favorites—a cozy bed, tasty treats, food puzzles, and new toys. Consider diffusing calming pheromones and playing soothing music as well. If your pet’s noise anxiety is severe, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for anti-anxiety medication. Be sure to set your pet up in their haven well before the first firework is lit to prevent anxiety from building.
#7: Groom your pet appropriately for the summer months
While it may seem counter-intuitive, avoid shaving your thick-coated pet in the summer. Double-coated dogs and other thick-furred pets rely on their coats to protect them from damaging UV rays and help regulate their body temperature. Regular brushing is a must, though, to prevent mat formation by removing dead hair. If the fur becomes matted, it will trap body heat close to the skin, preventing your pet from proper cooling.
#8: Protect your pet from parasites
As people and pets venture outdoors to enjoy the summer sunshine and warmth, so do fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. While these parasites can be year-round pests with warm enough temperatures, they become more active in the spring, summer, and fall. Your pet’s heartworm, flea, and tick prevention may also help repel other biting and stinging insects, such as flies and gnats, keeping your best friend safe from a variety of bugs and their nasty diseases.
#9: Leave your pet at home and not in your car
Although you always want your furry friend by your side, avoid taking your pet with you when you run errands. Even relatively mild temperatures can pose a threat to your pet. A study published in Pediatrics showed that children can die in parked cars in temperatures as low as 70 degrees. Cars can heat up as much as 40 degrees within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature, with 80% of the temperature surge occurring within the first half hour. The temperature outside doesn’t matter as much as the sunlight, since the sun’s rays turn the car’s glass into a greenhouse, rapidly heating the vehicle. Even if you plan on leaving your car running while you head into a store, your pet can accidentally hit a knob and turn off the air-conditioning. It’s best to just leave your furry pal at home.
#10: Recognize and address signs of heatstroke in your pet
Despite the awareness that heatstroke is a serious risk for pets, it’s still a common danger every summer. Learn to recognize the signs of overheating in your pet and take immediate action to cool your furry pal to avoid permanent organ damage or worse. If your pet pants heavily, drools excessively, staggers, appears disoriented, or develops bright red gums, head indoors to run a cool bath. Lower your pet’s body temperature with cool running water, fans, and small amounts of drinking water. Once your pet’s body temperature has reached 103 degrees, head to your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam to assess underlying damage.
Proper management and planning ahead will go a long way toward ensuring you and your pet can experience a summer full of delightful activities without an emergency veterinary visit. By following these 10 tips to help your furry friend beat the heat during the dog days of summer, you can safely enjoy the sunny warmth all season long.