It’s the time of year when school’s out, the sun is shining and outdoor activities fill the calendar. Many of us enjoy incorporating our four-legged friends on our adventures and keeping them by our side as we enjoy a leisurely summer walk or a relaxing afternoon in the backyard.
To make sure summer with our pets is as safe as possible, Peter Olson, DVM of Easton Animal Hospital, has several tips to keep pets safe, happy and healthy during the summer months.
It’s worth knowing that dangers to pets, especially dogs, include hot, humid conditions. These conditions, he explained, can put our furry dog friends at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
“This can be a potentially life-threatening condition. Dogs with thick or darkly-pigmented fur coats are particularly at risk. Brachycephalic breeds (e.g. Pugs, Bull dogs, Pekingese) are particularly at risk for heat stress,” he said.
He recommended using cooling collars and vests, strategically-placed fans to provide better outdoor air circulation, making sure ample shade is available and that they are drinking plenty of water. (Plus, Dr. Olson added, ice cubes to chew on or placed in water bowls can be a cool treat.) Generally, it is best if outside activities are avoided mid-day.
Dr. Olson went on to say that ectoparasites such as fleas or ticks are more active in warmer months and as we spend more time outside with our pets in parks during the summer, exposure can be increased.
“As we take our dogs out to parks and lakes, exposure to fecal parasites like giardia and roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms is common.
“Discourage dogs from interacting with/or eating other animals’ feces, as this definitely increases risk of intestinal parasite exposure. Also discourage dogs from drinking from outside water sources (like ponds, streams or rivers) since this is a common site for exposure to giardia,” he said.
Giardia is a tiny parasite that causes the diarrheal disease giardiasis. Giardia is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces from infected people or animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To help prevent ticks, Dr. Olson recommended monthly flea and tick preventatives (such as Nexgard and Bravecto) for dogs. When you come back from outdoor activities such as hikes, make sure to check your dog for ticks.
In addition to physical dangers, he highlighted emotional/psychological issues that may arise during the summer months. With summer come more thunderstorms and celebrations that incorporate fireworks and firecrackers, and many dogs have anxiety brought about by their fears of loud noises and storms.
Keep an eye on your felines, too.
If you have cats, he advises that owners be aware if their cats have ingested rat poison, or rats who have been killed with rat poison. Also keep an eye out for ticks. Another concern listed by Dr. Olson for felines is cat fights with other outdoor or stray cats.
According to the ASPCA, fights can lead to biting/scratching and lacerations, which can lead to infections such as cat-scratch fever – a potentially serious infectious disease that can cause flu-like symptoms – and other serious diseases. It is recommended to call your veterinarian if you suspect your cat has gotten into a fight and has sustained injuries.
— Liz Hosfeld