NEW YORK--As the weather warms up, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) wants to remind pet owners that there are ways to help pets beat the heat while having a happy and healthy summer.
"Most people associate summer with good times and good weather, but for pets, summer time can present some dangers that are no laughing matter," says Dr. Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the ASPCA. "Summer activities, like barbecues, traveling and hiking carry risks, but there are simple ways to protect your pet and have a fun summer."
Here are just some of the ways animal lovers can help ensure their pets have a safe summer:
- Visit the Vet. A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations. Pets should also be given a blood test for heartworm every year in the early spring. The deadly parasite is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, and it is recommended that dogs and cats be on monthly preventive medication year-round.
- Keep Cool. Dogs and cats can become dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of water when it is hot outdoors. Also make sure your pet has a shady place to escape the sun, and when the temperature is very high, don't let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your dog's body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. "Pet owners should never leave their animals unattended in a parked vehicle," adds Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. "Parked cars, even with windows open, become very hot in a short amount of time and this can lead to heatstroke or death."
- Spot the Symptoms. The symptoms of overheating in pets can include increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, mild weakness, seizures, and an elevated body temperature (over 104 degrees). Elderly, overweight, and pets with heart or lung diseases are more susceptible to heat stroke. Pets with short muzzles like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats become overheated because they cannot pant effectively. These pets should be kept in rooms with air conditioning so they can stay cool.
- Pest-Free Pets. Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), insecticides, and some lawn products can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. Some flea products that can be used safely on dogs can be deadly to cats, because of the presence of the chemical permethrin. Be sure to read directions on all flea and tick products carefully and follow the label instructions exactly. "When walking your dog, steer clear of areas you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other lawn products," says Dr. Camille DeClementi, senior director for the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. "Citronella candles, oil products and insect coils should also be kept out of pets' reach," she adds.
- Party Smarts. Summertime can be perfect for backyard barbecues or parties, but remember that the food and drink you serve your guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, and remember that the snacks you serve your friends should not be treats for your pet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Make sure to avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol since these are poisonous to pets.
- Fireworks are not Friendly. Leave pets at home when you head out for fireworks, and don't ignite fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets and unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.
- Splash Safely. Do not leave dogs unsupervised around a pool, as not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure she wears a flotation device on board a boat. Rinse your dog after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset. Also, make sure that your pet does not have access to the concentrated pool chemicals, as they are highly toxic to animals if ingested.
- Beware of "High-Rise Syndrome." During warmer months, many animal hospitals and veterinarians see an increase in injured animals as a result of "High-Rise Syndrome," which occurs when pets fall out of windows or doors and are seriously or fatally injured. Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.
If your dog or cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance, please contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance. For more information on having a fun, safe summer with your pet, please visit www.aspca.org.