They wait patiently for you to come home so they can shower you with love. You feed them; watch over them, and when they’re sick you take care of them like your own child. Why wouldn’t you make sure that they’re safe during the hot days of summer? Here are the top ten pet safety tips for the summer.
1. Water, water, everywhere, and lots of it to drink.
Leaving your pet without water at any time is dangerous, but it’s especially risky on hot summer days. Whether your pets live indoors or out, they need to stay hydrated, and constant free access to water will help them do so. Never leave your pets without water for any length of time, and always bring water with you on long walks or car trips.
2. Be a shady character.
Provide shade for your pets if they’ll be spending time out of doors. Temperatures in the shade can be up to 10 to 15 degrees cooler than temperatures in the sun—an important difference not just for your pet’s comfort but for its health as well. Note that dogs don’t sweat; they can only release body heat by panting, which is not an efficient cooling method. Keeping your pet’s body temperature from rising in the first place is the best way to prevent heat-related illnesses.
3. Cut it out.
Consider clipping your long-haired dogs in summer, especially if you’re not good at keeping long coats well-groomed. The animal might look a little funny, but sacrificing beauty for comfort is worthwhile. The lion cut is a fun new style that can help keep your dog cool while looking snazzy—to some eyes, at least. If you choose to clip your dog, keep in mind that shearing the hair close can leave your dog susceptible to sunburn. Fortunately, doggie sunscreen can come to the rescue in this situation.
4. Keep cruising.
If you take your pet on a car ride, make sure it’s either a joy ride or that you can take your pet with you wherever you’re doing. A trip to the beach or park is fine for furry friends, but leaving them in the car—even with the windows down—for any amount of time is a bad idea. You may think, “Fuzzy will be fine in the car if I just run in for a few errands,” but your “few errands” could take much longer than expected, and there’s no specific amount of time you can leave a pet in a car without some risk. Play it safe and never leave pets in the car unattended.
5. Don’t overdo it—or let your pet overdo it.
Watch your pet carefully when playing in the summertime. As noted, it’s hard for animals (particularly dogs) to release body heat. Some animals may be so enthusiastic about playing or exercising that they continue to do so even when they are already overheating. It’s up to you as a pet owner to realize that your pet’s physical limits may be different from its mental ones, and refrain from over-exercising or over-stimulating your dog, particularly in hot weather.
6. Find your other best friend.
If you go on vacation, take your pet or find someone to take care of it. Pets like cats, fish, or reptiles may seem relatively self-sufficient and less demanding of attention than a dog, but they still need to be checked on daily. Any water you leave for the animals could be spilled, and your pets may become severely dehydrated after only a short time without water. Don’t risk it—find a friend to help care for your animals while you’re gone.
7. Hire a nanny.
If you don’t know any other animal lovers, consider hiring a pet-sitting service or boarding your animals while away. There will be some expense involved, but it’s worth the money to know your pet is okay, rather than wonder what’s happening while you’re gone. The links provided will help you find nationally certified local services, which you can evaluate using criteria available online or from your veterinarian. You can find and evaluate boarding services based on word of mouth and recommendations from other pet owners. Your veterinarian will also be able to recommend a reputable boarding or pet-sitting service, if your vet clinic itself does not offer boarding. If you’ve never boarded your pets before, you may consider leaving your pet overnight for a “practice” stay while still home to reduce anxiety levels during your departure.
8. Ensure a safe homecoming.
Summer is a time when you and your family are more likely to go in and out of your apartment frequently, or to play with your pet outdoors. As a result, your pet will have more opportunity to escape. Make sure that your pet has up-to-date tags to assist in its safe identification and return. You might also consider getting a microchip for your pet if it doesn’t already have one; ask your veterinarian for more information.
9. Cool pool education.
Many apartment complexes have pools, which can be extremely dangerous for pets. Many pets cannot swim, and even those who can swim may not be able to get out of a pool with high sides. Keep your pet away from the pool or ensure that it knows how to escape via the stairs should it fall into the pool. Pets might also drink the chemical-heavy pool water, so keep an eye on your pet at all times if you’re near a swimming pool.
10. Simmer down now.
Be prepared to cool your pet if it becomes overheated. Some signs of heat stress include heavy panting, glazed eyes, increased pulse, unsteadiness, or a deep red or purple tongue. If your pet is dehydrated, its skin will lose elasticity and “tent,” or remain in place, if you pull it away from the body. Under normal conditions, the skin should move back immediately; dehydration slows the rate of return. Other symptoms of dehydration include dry nose and gums, sunken eyes, delayed capillary refill time (the time it takes the gums to become pink again after applying pleasure). If your pet shows these symptoms, you will probably want to take it to a veterinarian immediately. To cool off your pet at home, you might douse it with a hose, provide some water or orally administer electrolytes to aid the rehydration process. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian for assistance. Severe cases of dehydration often require the administration of intravenous fluids.
If you take the tips above to heart, you and your pet should have a safe and happy summer!