5 Important Reminders to Keep Your Pets Safe This Summer

Jaime Shriver, DVM

Associate Veterinaian, Clinical Toxicology

Have you been enjoying the summer so far?  Warm nights on the lake or up at the cabin with your puppy? Campfires with friends after dark? Ice cold lemonade while you sit in a hammock with your furry friends nearby?

Summer is a special time of year.  Here at Pet Poison Helpline® we really love the season and enjoy spending time outside with our pets, but there are a few things we all need to remember to keep our pets extra safe this season.

  • Dogs and cats are less heat tolerant than humans. They don’t sweat the way humans do (a primary way that humans expel heat) and generally have an insulating hair coat.  Panting is one of the main ways dogs and cats expel heat and excessive panting could be a sign of overheating In general I don’t recommend taking your pets for long walks when the temperatures start to rise above 80 degrees F.  If you do go for short walks, make sure to provide plenty of fresh water and avoid black top which can burn their feet.
  • Make sure to talk with your veterinarian about Flea and Tick Preventative for your pet. The tick season really varies by location and your veterinarian is the best person to ask about the treatment period in your area and which specific preventative they recommend for your pet.  Flea and tick prevents are generally very safe.  Ticks can carry many diseases to your pet including Lymes’ disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and others.  Fleas are also a major vector for tape worms and can cause severe dermatitis and allergic problems in many pets.
  • Make sure to keep your pet on year-round Heartworm preventative. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and is fatal if left untreated.  Heartworm preventatives also prevent intestinal parasites during the winter season.  Heartworm disease is very difficult and expensive to treat and we do see cases in the area in un-treated dogs.  The treatment for heartworm disease is expensive and dangerous.  Even some treated dogs won’t make it, so it is important to take prevention seriously!
  • Watch out for Summer Specific Toxins! There are certain toxins that are only going to be an issue in the summer months including Blue Green Algae (which is generally found in warm ponds), many outdoor plants, fireworks, Tiki Torch Fluid, Bufo Toads, some snakes and spiders.   Check our website to double check any plants you buy for the yard to ensure that they aren’t toxic.   Keep dogs out of warm ponds as it is impossible to predict which ponds will contain the highly toxic blue green algae. If your pet has exposure to something and you aren’t sure if it is toxic, please call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline® to inquire further!
  • Not all dogs are swimmers. Most dogs will naturally “dog paddle” when they enter the water, but that doesn’t mean that they can keep it up for any period of time.  Many dogs will become anxious in the water and could drowned because they are scared or secondary to exhaustion.  I would recommend not allowing your dog in deep water if you aren’t comfortable that they are strong swimmers and keep in mind even a strong swimmer can drowned if the current is right.  If you intend to do a lot of swimming you may want to consider investing in a life jacket for your dog as a precaution.

Have a great summer!  Have lots of fun with your pets, but keep these tips in mind to stay safe!