Summer Pet Care Tips

During the summer months, many of us will be spending more time outdoors with our pets and will be more likely to take our pets along on errands. While interaction with your pet is important for its health and well-being, hot weather does pose risks for our animal friends. With the proper precautions, you and your pet will enjoy a fun, comfortable, and healthy summer.

Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle

Even when outside temperatures are a moderate 70 degrees, a car or truck cab can become a miniature greenhouse. Even with the window cracked, the temperature inside a car can quickly climb to more than 110 degrees. Because dogs don’t perspire (they pant to take in cooler air), the distress of a hot car can make them panic, which only aggravates the problem.

Many cases of heatstroke happen when dogs are locked in cars with windows rolled up or cracked slightly. Heatstroke is life-threatening for animals. If not caught in its earliest stages, heatstroke can mean quick death for your pet.

Provide your pet with plenty of clean, cool drinking water

This is very important in order to avoid dehydration. However, do not let your dog drink a lot of water before, during or after exercise because a condition called gastric torsion, or bloat, may result. A dog, especially a deep-chested breed like the German Shepherd, can die from bloat. Its stomach may swell and even rotate like a wringing towel, which cuts off blood supply through the stomach.

Avoid exercising your pet during the midday summer heat

Exercising your animal is important, but it is better to do so in the early morning or evening hours when the temperatures are lower. If you run with your dog, it is important to gradually build an exercise program that your dog can handle. Dogs can suffer from heatstroke if overworked.

If you notice your animal behaving in a peculiar way and suspect it may be suffering from heatstroke or bloat, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Beware of exercising your dog on hot pavement

Because dogs don’t have tennis shoes, they need pad protection. Your dog can get damaged or blistered feet if it doesn’t have time to build up its food pads. Consider running on the roadside or grass.

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Protect your pet from sunburn

Just like humans, pets can get a sunburn, too. Help your pet avoid a sunburn by avoiding the sun during the brightest part of the day (10 am to 4 pm) or use a pet-specific sunscreens which are fragrance free, non-staining, and contain UVA and UVB blockers. Do not use human sunscreens on pets; most are toxic if ingested by dogs or cats. Check the label, as some pet-specific products are not appropriate for use on cats.

Keep fleas in check

As temperatures rise, so does the flea population. Flea control is important for several reasons. Flea bites cause local skin irritation and swelling that may cause your pet discomfort. Some dogs and cats will develop an allergic reaction to flea bites. This intense irritation may result in constant scratching, which can lead to hair loss or a bacterial skin infection know as “hot spots.” Fleas are also intermediate hosts for tapeworms and can transmit bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.

A common cause of pet poisoning in the summer months is improper use or application of flea and tick control products. Use such products responsibly and according to package instructions. Overuse and misuse can be deadly.

  • Never apply 45-65% permethrin "spot-on" products to cats, even in small amounts. Highly concentrated permethrin can be extremely toxic to cats.
  • If you have both dogs and cats in your household, you should be aware that using a permethrin "spot-on" product on a dog may cause illness or death in a household cat.
  • Never use flea medications intended for a dog on a cat instead. It is important to use only flea and tick products specifically designed for cats, and to administer the proper dosage.
  • All flea and tick "spot-on" products—even ones with nearly identical brand names—are not alike. Check the label to identify the active ingredient before you apply it.

Do not use bug control products meant for humans on pets

Ingredients such as DEET in mosquito repellant can be toxic, especially to cats. Only use products formulated for animals on your pets; ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

Published: March 11, 2009;    Updated: July 17, 2013

Filed Under: Travel, Seasonal Issues, Companion Animals, Cats, Dogs

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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