Summer Safety Tips to Help Protect Your Pet
As we all know, summer’s a great time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather with our pets, but we want to make sure we’re doing it safely. Here are 7 tips from your Westmount veterinarian to help keep the summer fun for you and your pet.
1. Beat the Heat
Like people, pets can suffer from heat stroke. Unlike us, though, dogs and cats don’t cool off primarily through sweating. When they get hot, they pant, but panting isn’t always enough to bring down their body temperature. This puts our pets at higher risk for heat stroke, or elevated core body temperature, a dangerous, potentially life-threatening condition.
So what causes heat stroke in dogs and cats?
- Being outside in hot temperatures, especially on sunny days without access to shade or water
- Exercising (including just walking) during the heat of the day
- Being stuck in a hot car, even with the windows cracked
Heat stroke can be life-threatening, especially if not caught and treated quickly. Call us immediately if you think your pet may be suffering from heat stroke.
Brachycephalic pets (those with short noses or flat faces, such as boxers, bulldogs, pugs, Persians, Himalayans, and Burmese cats), overweight pets, seniors, puppies and kittens, pets with dark skin or fur, and those with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of heat stroke.
Pets with heat stroke may show the following signs:
- Panting rapidly
- Salivating or drooling excessively
- Restlessness or agitation
- Trouble breathing
- Glassy eyes
- Bright red gums
To prevent heat stroke in your pet:
- Make sure your pet has access to shade and plenty of room temperature (not cold) water to drink.
- Consider exercising your pet in the morning or evening, when the temperature is lower.
- Never leave your pet alone in a car, even on days that don’t seem that warm. When it’s only 21 degrees Celsius outside, the inside of your car can climb to almost 40 degrees in just 20 minutes! On a 32-degree day, your car’s interior will reach almost 50 degrees in that same time. Cracking the windows makes very little difference.
Heat warning: If you can’t leave your hand or foot on a sidewalk or concrete for 5 to 10 seconds, then your pet’s paw pads can’t take the heat either.
2. Prevent and Manage Hot Spots
For some pets, summer may mean “hot spot season.” Warmer, more humid weather can create prime conditions for these painful, itchy areas to flourish on your pet’s skin. Hot spots commonly show up on the legs, hips, or head, but they can develop anywhere on the skin. Characterized by red, well-defined, irritated areas of hair loss, hot spots are often swollen, moist, and can become crusty. Unless properly treated, hot spots will continue to get larger as the pet keeps licking or scratching at them.
Give us a call as soon as you notice any hot spots on your pet. We’ll work to determine the underlying cause of the hot spots, which can include a large range of conditions, such as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), parasites, skin allergies, food allergies, infections, and even moisture from swimming or being bathed. Understanding and treating the underlying issue will help us get your pet relief and help prevent hot spots from coming back.
3. Keep Pets Out of Summer Toxins
Several kinds of poisons can spell trouble for pets if they get into them:
- Fertilizers and pesticides, for instance, often cause relatively mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, but can be more problematic if large amounts are consumed or if they contain iron or other worrisome ingredients.
- Mulch can cause a blockage inside a pet’s GI system, and cocoa bean mulch can potentially cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and muscle tremors if the product contains enough theobromine and caffeine (the same chemicals in chocolate that are toxic to pets) or if a pet eats a large amount.
- Bait, even in small amounts, can cause tremors, seizures, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and other serious signs. Depending on the kind of bait, ingestion by a pet can be deadly.
- Most herbicides tend to be less of a concern, as long as the product is applied correctly and pets are kept off the yard or other treated area until the product dries completely. Follow label instructions, and be sure to dilute any runoff.
Keep the following products well out of reach or ideally locked away from pets, and keep pets away from areas where the products are being used: pesticides, rodenticides like mole and gopher bait, snail and slug bait, mulch, herbicides, and fertilizers that contain iron or bone, blood, or feather meal. Even products that are less toxic to pets can cause serious symptoms if a pet consumes a lot at one time. Close and properly dispose of used containers.
If you have a free-roaming cat, consider using pet-safe alternatives where possible or removing weeds by hand rather than using herbicides, for instance.
Call us immediately at 519-569-7902 if you think your pet has consumed something toxic. During off-hours, you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (a fee may be charged).
4. Be Aware of Toxic Plants
Certain plants pose a risk to pets as well. Some may only cause GI issues, but others can be life-threatening. Plants to keep your pet away from include:
- Rhubarb (leaves)
- Tomato (the plants and unripe fruit, or green tomatoes)
- Onions, garlic, and chives
- Potato (both the leaves and raw potatoes)
- Lilies (many varieties are extremely toxic to cats)
For more information on toxic plants, please give us a call or consult these sites:
5. Watch Out for Stinging Insects
This time of year, there are plenty of stinging insects that can cause problems for pets. Be on the lookout for beehives, wasp nests, yellow jackets, and other wasps around your home and neighbourhood. If your pet gets stung, don’t wait for an allergic reaction or other symptoms. Call us right away at 519-569-7902! A sting can become life-threatening within minutes.
6. Watch Your Pet at Cookouts
Attending a cookout or picnic with your 4-legged friend can be fun, but it can quickly turn into an emergency if your pet consumes any food that can be dangerous, like corn cobs, avocado pits, whole stone fruits like peaches and cherries, watermelon (rinds and seeds), meat with bones, food on skewers, onions, grapes, or raisins. Keep your pet away from the food, especially if you know he or she tends to eat food off the ground or sneak treats from tables.
7. Beware of Fireworks
Not only can fireworks frighten pets, but they can cause burns and other injuries, often to the eyes, mouth, or paws. Some types of fireworks are corrosive or toxic if consumed; they can cause serious GI issues in pets and may even be deadly if they contain heavy metals and hazardous chemicals.
To be safe, keep your pet away from all stored fireworks, as well as far away from the area where you plan to set them off. If your pet tends to be scared of fireworks (or if you aren’t sure), consider leaving him or her at home, ideally with the TV or radio on to drown out the sound, while you attend any events where fireworks are planned.
We can also offer options, such as medications and pheromones, to help to calm your pet and reduce his or her fear of fireworks and other loud noises.
Call us to find out how we can help your pet with noise aversion!
Your Westmount Vet Can Help
If you have questions about keeping your pet safe this summer, please give us a call. We’re here for you and your pet!