Summer means extra time outdoors. Sunny months provide a perfect opportunity for bonding with pets, but higher temperatures, seasonal plants and pests and additional travel can pose higher risks for complications.
To help keep dogs, cats and other pets safe during summer adventures, consider these tips from the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals, which has more than 1,000 locations across North America that cared for more than 4.5 million pets last year.
Beat the heat
Dogs and cats cannot control their body temperature by sweating as humans do. They have a small number of sweat glands located in their footpads and primarily regulate their temperature by panting. Vigorous exercise, leaving a pet in a vehicle with poor ventilation - even if the windows are down - or being left outside without shade and water on hot days can lead to heatstroke, or hyperthermia.
Increased humidity combined with warmer temperatures intensifies the risk of heat stroke, especially during the first few warm days as pets transition to outdoor activity. If your pet exhibits any symptoms of heatstroke - elevated breathing rates, dry or sticky gums, lethargy, disorientation, abnormal gum color, bruised gums or seizures - pour cool water over your pet’s head, stomach and feet or apply cool, wet cloths, ensure continuous airflow and see a veterinarian immediately.
Keep ticks at bay
As pets spend more time outdoors in the summer, they’re often exposed to pests like ticks. Ticks can transmit serious diseases to both dogs and cats. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, as many as 1 in 20 dogs tested positive for tick-borne diseases in 2021. Ticks climb onto pets from blades of grass or fall from overhanging trees and foliage. If a tick finds its way onto your pet, use tweezers or disposable gloves to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible then pull straight out with steady, even pressure until the tick releases.
If you find a tick, carefully inspect all areas of skin, including behind the ears and between the toes, for additional ticks. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with soap and water and wash your hands. Save the tick in a resealable plastic bag to show your veterinarian and take note of the time and place the bite occurred and any other details that may aid your veterinarian should an illness occur. Follow your veterinarian’s advice about tick preventative measures, and make sure the product is safe to be used for your pet’s size. Never use dog flea and tick products on cats.
If you plan to travel with your pet, pack the necessities for your animal. Your pet’s luggage should include food, water bowls, treats, a leash and collar, toys, medications and printed copies of medical records, including vaccination history. Check with your veterinarian to determine if a health certificate is needed for travel. Also ensure your pet is comfortable with his or her crate or carrier before flying or embarking on a long road trip.
Knowing where to take your pet in case of an emergency while away from home is also essential. Look up emergency veterinary clinics near your destination before departing or ask if your vet offers virtual care options. For example, through the myVCA app, you can access 24/7 live chat with licensed veterinary professionals.
Many of the same allergens that affect humans impact pets. Atopy, also known as inhalant allergy, is a common cause of skin problems in dogs and cats. Affected animals often have a history of chronic or recurrent itching and tend to have a history of repeated skin or ear infections. Itchy pets tend to scratch themselves, lick their feet and rub on furniture or carpet. Atopy can also cause cats to groom excessively and develop bald or crusty spots on their skin.
Some allergies may also affect the respiratory or digestive systems or the eyes. If your pet is displaying signs of allergies, your veterinarian can recommend appropriate testing and treatment to reduce symptoms.
Visit vcahospitals.com to find more ways to keep pets safe throughout the summer and book an appointment.