Five Ways To Keep Your Pet Happy and Safe in Summer

PART 2 in a blog series on Summer Safety for Pets

Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is just around the corner, and we’re entering what’s probably the most dangerous season for your pet.

We recently went into detail about heat stroke and dogs–because it’s a very real, very serious emergency that can even be fatal.

Here are five ways to keep your pet happy and safe in summer:

  • Water.  Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are good swimmers. Make sure you introduce your dog gradually to the water–especially if you have a pool or if there’s a nearby pond or canal– so you can make a thorough determination as to his ability–and then keep him safe if you find he can’t swim.  Make sure your dog has a flotation device if you go out on a boat. In addition, water can be a home to parasites, toxins and chemicals.  Stagnant puddles of water can also be breeding-grounds for things like mosquitos and ticks.
  • Parties and other celebrations.  The excitement can sometimes over-stimulate an animal; doors and windows can be accidentally left open; people food, garbage and decorations can be left for them to get into–and animals can often be terrified by the sound of fireworks.

The answer to this is to keep pets a safe distance from the celebration: Make sure there’s a special room, or area, where your pet can safely stay to get away from it all.  Include any special items, such as blankets, toys, water, a few grains of dried kibble, maybe an article of your clothing.

My Westie, Baxter, was crate-trained as a puppy, but he loved his crate so much I never had the heart to get rid of it.  I always kept it with the door ajar so he could go in and out as he pleased. Baxter saw the crate as his  room, a place of his own where he could get away from it all.  Once I had a house full of guests so he just let himself into the crate—and shut the door with his nose.  “Did he just do what I think he did?” asked one of my guests.  He’d also go in whenever there were noises like thunder, construction or traffic that would disturb him.

  • More heat dangers. Cats, especially, like to lounge near sunny windows.  All pets like balconies, terraces, porches, decks and even, sometimes, fire escapes.   Make sure they’re safe and secure so your pet can’t fall.

And don’t forget about sunburn! Cats mostly stay indoors, but dogs like to romp outside–and their skin can peel and blister.  Just like humans, repeated exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. Pets with light, or short, hair tend to be the most vulnerable, as are dogs with short legs; they’re close to the ground so their tummies can get burned from the reflected sunlight. Use a sunscreen specially formulated for dogs; ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

  • Poisons.  During the summer, people tend to their gardens and lawns;  find out what chemicals are poisonous and keep them away from pets.  Some flowers and plants can also be poisonous to animals.  Do your research; talk to the people at your garden center; read labels; get recommendations from your veterinarian.
  • Pests.  A neighbor’s dog was diagnosed with Lyme Disease last summer.  As she put it, “There was one tick with the disease and it bit my dog.”  I once had a cairn terrier who was severely allergic–to just about everything!  We took a brief walk through a park one day and walked on the concrete pathway–not on the grass or by the trees or shrubs.  The next day he bit all the hair off his tail.  I rushed him to the vet who told me he had been bitten by a flea–and had an allergic reaction!  So make sure you talk to your vet about proper (and safe) pest control.
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