Fido agrees: the dog days of summer are here. And if your pooch is your pal, the sky is the limit with outdoor fun. As with any activity, though, poor planning can dampen even a sunny day.
As a pet parent, there are some dos and don’ts to maximize this season’s fun with your Fido or Fluffy. Here are a few to get you started:
Water – Do have fresh water available at all times for your pet. This is as important for animals as it is for us. Dogs pant to cool themselves. This contributes to dehydration just as sweating increases our need for fluid. Remember that outdoor water heats up during hot weather, causing bowls or garden hoses to become dangerously hot.
Parasites – Do use regular parasite prevention for Fido and Fluffy. Pesky critters thrive in warm weather and can become unwanted guests. Common visitors include ticks, fleas, and heartworms. Fortunately, these are easy and safe to prevent with FDA-approved medicines. Many parasites can also cause other illnesses such as canine Lyme disease, tapeworm infestation, and feline asthma. Contrary to popular belief, even indoor pets can be affected.
Brachycephalics – Do protect your short-nosed dog during hot weather. These dogs have been bred to have cute, flat faces, but many have lost their ability to pant normally and cool themselves. A typical warm day can trigger respiratory distress in a pug or bulldog. These situations can rapidly deteriorate and become life-threatening medical emergencies. If your Fido is a brachycephalic dog, keep him in an air-conditioned environment during warm weather.
Life jackets – Do invest in a doggy life jacket if your hobbies include dogs and water. Whether you like to boat, swim, or romp on the beach, Fido will likely be at your side. Not all dogs can swim, so don’t assume yours can. Even experienced canine swimmers can drown in river currents, ocean riptides, or long lake swims. Doggy life jackets come in different sizes to fit all canines, with handy handles for quick rescues.
Shade – Do provide shade for your pet. Direct sun can be intensely hot. Depending on the weather, simple shade may be all your pooch needs for comfort. Light-haired dogs and cats are also prone to sunburn, especially on their ears and noses. Repeated exposure increases their risk of skin cancer.
Ice cubes – Don’t give Fido ice cubes. Ice may seem like a terrific way to cool your canine, and Fido may like it, too. But ice cubes are very hard and can crack teeth. Fractured teeth are painful and require surgical intervention with root canal therapy or extraction so that Fido is comfortable again.
Pavement – Don’t walk Fido on hot surfaces. Pavement and sidewalks can become extremely hot and burn your dog’s feet. Even beach sand can fry an egg on hot days. Pets can get second-degree burns on their pads when owners take them out for a stroll. Test the surface by touching the road with your hand or treading barefoot on the sand yourself before asking Fido to join you.
Windows – Don’t let Fluffy escape through open windows or doors. It’s easy to forget about dangers to your indoor cat during hot summer weather. Opening doors and windows is tempting for a cross-breeze, but don’t tempt Fluffy to become an escape artist. Even timid indoor cats may become curious, venture outside and get lost. Screens can help avoid that, but they can pop out if the windows are wide open and a cat is pressing against the screen. If you open your windows, minimize your risk by using a screen and cracking the window just a few inches so that Fluffy cannot squeeze through.
Jogging – Don’t jog with your dog when the temperature climbs. You may think you can tolerate a high-temp run, but it may not be safe for Fido. On many summer days, even mid-morning treks may be too hot. This is especially true for brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs. If you must exercise with Fido in the summer, consider a sunrise exercise routine.
BBQ – Don’t let Fido help himself to leftover barbecue. Even meaty fat drippings can transform inedible objects into morsels for some dogs. Old charcoal, sand, or gravel where grease was dumped can become tasty snacks for mischievous dogs. Be sure to dispose of barbecue drippings in the trash, so that Fido doesn’t sneak a snack.
Cars – Don’t leave Fido in a car on a summer day, ever. You may think your car is safe if it’s parked in the shade, or if the windows are cracked open. But cars trap heat like greenhouses and become dangerously hot very quickly. Even seemingly quick errands can become delayed, risking Fido’s life.
There are lots of ways to enjoy time with your pet this summer and be safe, too.