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Keep Your Pets Safe During The Hot Summer Months

Summer is here. Summer means open windows, outdoor activities, swimming pools, travel, cook-outs and company! Summer also presents some dangers to pets, which include all of the previously mentioned things: open windows, outdoor activities, swimming pools, travel, cook-outs and company!   Add in record-breaking high temperatures and bugs, and Fido and Puff could be begging to move to Alaska. Have a swimming pool? Invite us over! But remember, not all dogs can swim and older pets may not have the stamina for staying a afloat or climbing to safety.  Pets can drown if they fall into the water, don’t leave them unattended by the pool.  Don’t want to cover your pool?  You can protect your kids and pets with a floating sensor that sends an audible alarm and a digital alert when the water surface is disturbed.    Make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date to stay ahead of diseases that thrive in hot weather.   Parvovirus, an illness that flourishes in hot weather, is a potentially fatal disease for unvaccinated dogs.  Summer and early fall is heartworm medication time!  Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, and it can damage your dog’s heart and lungs and other vital organs.  It's expensive to treat, and often undetectable until damage has already been done, but it can be prevented by administering a monthly dose between June and November.  If your dog hasn’t been tested for heartworm this year, see your veterinarian. While you’re there, be sure your pet’s rabies vaccinations are current.  Pets spend more time outdoors in the summer, increasing the chance of encountering possible rabies carriers.  Before starting a road trip, think about your pet’s safety and comfort. Is their collar tagged with your current address and contact information? Are they micro-chipped, and is your information properly registered?   If you're travelling, did you pack snacks and water for everyone or just the two-legged passengers?  While many pets look forward to a short ride, a long-distance trip may be too much for them. You should consider your pet’s stamina, activity level and adaptability to new surroundings before you pull out of the driveway.  Maybe a pet sitter or boarding would be a kinder summer getaway for her.    Check your windows!  A hot pet may try to find a breeze for relief and head for your windowsills.  Make sure your screens are strong, intact, and securely attached, especially if you share your home with cats.  The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine reports a dramatic increase in "high rise" syndrome, i.e. cats falling from windows, during the summer months.  Despite legends, cats don’t always land on their feet when falling from heights; they must be able to twist into the proper position.  In fact, the most severe injuries occur when cats fall from second or third-floor windows.   Grilling is a rite of summer, but it can be dangerous to pets!  Some potential disasters are obvious, hot coals and sharp skewers can harm people and animals.  But think beyond a tipped grill or gas leaks.  Tossed bones and corn cobs are so tasty animals will scavenge them from the trash. These can lead to digestive obstructions that could result in expensive endoscopy or surgical intervention.   Spilled meat juices and grease can set the stage for disaster if your dog ingests them. The same is true for wood chips, sand or even broken grill brush wires.  Those small wires are particularly dangerous, they can cause perforations and other serious injury. That beer keg attracts more than neighbors, dogs are drawn to yeasty or fruity smelling alcohols and a drunken dog can experience vomiting and aspiration pneumonia.  So, this summer, keep an eye out for abandoned Solo cups, put trash in a lidded container and make sure you keep your pets away from the grill.   Keep them from overheating!  “While some canines have coats that can withstand temperature extremes better than others, most dogs are simply not designed for the heat. They have heavy fur coats that feel like warm blankets beneath the sun,” explains Dr. Ricky Walther, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at Pawlicy Advisor.  He recommends keeping your pets well groomed. Daily brushing or combing also lets you check for fleas and ticks.  If you have a pool or body of water nearby, taking your dog swimming can be an excellent way for you and your dog to play together while you both stay cool. If you don't have access to that, Dr. Walther suggests that you offer your dog access to a shallow, padded pool — a “kiddy” pool — that they can stand or lay in to help regulate their body temperature and have some fun splashing around!   Please keep in mind that you should never leave your dog alone in the pool, even if the kiddy pool is only filled up part of the way. Another way to keep a dog cool: fill a spray bottle with cool water and mist your dog with it regularly to help them regulate their body temperature.  Pay special attention to the bottom of their feet, inside of their mouth, and groin area for faster relief.    Learn more and get Dr. Walther’s Seven Vet-Approved Tips for cooling down dogs.   Cats suffer just as much from the heat, especially indoor/outdoor cats.  Do not let cats out into the yard or onto a catio on hot or humid days, keep cats inside where there is air conditioning.  Outdoor cats need plenty of shade and access to water. Small animals are affected by hot weather, too, don’t forget to keep hamsters, bunnies and other caged pets cool.  Move hutches or cages out of direct sunlight and into the coolest spot that is practical.  Not only are these penned pets trapped by their enclosures, but their cages are usually made from materials like metal and plastic that become warm to the touch and retain heat.   Keep water bottles and bowls topped up and consider setting up a fan to blow indirectly at the cage to keep the air moving.  Place cool tiles in the cage or hutch or add some "cold-water bottles." Just freeze some water bottles, wrap them in cloth, and place them around the cage for your pet to lean against.  Cooling dogs toys can also be soaked in water and frozen. Toss a few into the pen!  A rabbit regulates his temperature through his ears, spray them with cool water to boost their natural cooling system. Never soak a small pet in cold water, it can cause shock and put them at risk of respiratory illnesses. Just as we crave ice cream and popsicles, pets love a cool treat, too.  Drop ice cubes into water bowls and pet fountains.  Keep your hamsters and gerbils cool and hydrated with snacks like apples, cucumber and celery right from the fridge.  Increase your cat's wet food and offer frozen peas, cucumber slices, or watermelon to keep them hydrated.   A spoonful of frozen unsweetened Greek yogurt has a low lactose count that even the most sensitive cat stomach can take.  If your dog has a Kong toy, fill it with frozen yogurt or peanut butter.  Dog ice-cream and pup-sicles can be found in most pet stores or grocery superstores, or you can make your own.   If you get overexcited by the Ice Cream Truck… think of your Pet’s reaction to these cool treats Some animals are more susceptible to hot weather dangers. Elderly or obese pets, puppies, kittens, and any Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog or cat need extra care and precautions to avoid heat exhaustion or stroke.    If you notice that your dog or cat is overheating, get them out of the sun immediately.  The early signs include panting, irregular breathing, disorientation, looking for shade or digging, and grooming or licking to get cool.  Get them into a cool environment as soon as you can, provide them with water and a cool place to lie down and create a gentle breeze by fanning them.  Rub cool water on paw pads and ears, and it’s available, rub alcohol on their paws, it cools as it evaporates. For larger animals, apply wet towels across their neck, groin, and armpit area.  The American Kennel Club recommends against ice-cold compresses; they can shrink your dog’s blood vessels and generate more internal heat. Small animals, such as hamsters, often don’t display any early warning signs.  Drooling, open mouth breathing and faster than normal breathing, appearing uncoordinated and lethargic are all symptoms to look out for.  Place your pet in a cool area, put cold compresses on his belly and consult a vet.    Heat stroke is a life-threatening health emergency for dogs, cats and all small animals.  According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, signs to watch for include heavy, loud breathing, a staggering gait, and a bright red tongue or gum tissue.  If you think your pet could be having a heat stroke don’t wait, this is a medical emergency that needs a vet’s immediate attention.   These few precautions can make having fun this summer with your pets easy, more enjoyable and emergency vet-free!  

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