Dear Dr. Dog: I want to make sure my dog makes it through the hot months without getting sick or injured. What special precautions I should keep in mind?
1. Minimize Health Threats
Increased exposure to the outdoors in warm weather introduces some risk for your pet. Prevent problems by investing in flea & tick and heartworm monthly preventives.
Allergens abound in growing seasons; prepare your pet by feeding a premium dog food, supplement fatty acids in the months before spring, and promptly treat hot spots.
- Groom your pet frequently to remove burrs, thorns, etc.
- Bring a safe supply of water when outdoors – avoid allowing pets to drink out of lakes/streams to prevent parasitic infections.
- Pets can suffer UV damage, too – many owners use sunscreen, especially on pets with less pigmentation, like white cats. Any pet can benefit from sunscreen on sensitive areas like the nose and ear tips (baby formula sunscreen works best).
- If hiking on rocky terrain, check your pet's paw pads often to make sure they're not getting injured.
2. Stay Cool
Unlike humans, dogs and cats cannot regulate their body temperature by sweating, so they are more prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Signs of heatstroke include rapid panting, weakness, red or pale gums, and thick sticky saliva. Check on your pet often on hot days, and keep him cool by:
- Providing fresh, cool water often, especially after activity; add ice cubes to the bowl.
- Keeping him in the shade if he's an outside dog.
- Using a cage fan to provide a breeze.
- Offering cooling surfaces for your pet, such as the Cool Bed III or Bandana; or freeze a toy bone for him to chew.
- Getting an inexpensive child pool to let your dog take a refreshing dip.
- Grooming to remove loose hair to keep your pet more comfortable.
3. Be Pro-Active
Despite the warm temperatures, your pet still needs exercise. There are many ways you can make the experience more enjoyable for him.
- Limit walks to early morning or late evening hours when it's cooler.
- Use reflective leashes and collars for after-dusk walks.
- If you must walk your pet at midday, prevent prolonged exposure to blacktop surfaces to prevent paw pad burns.
- Make sure swimming conditions are safe for your pet (current not too strong, no underwater hazards, no high bacteria counts, etc). After swimming, rinse and dry your pet thoroughly, especially inside the ears and near open wounds to prevent infections. Try a pet dryer switched to a cool setting.
4. Around the House
If your dog spends more time in your yard in the summer, it's worth taking a good look around to make sure there aren't any hazards right in your own backyard.
- Check all electrical cords for cracks or frays and make necessary repairs.
- Replace or repair jagged or torn landscape edging and rusting yard decorations.
- Keep pets off freshly-fertilized lawn for the duration specified on the packaging.
- Clean up yard and compost piles to prevent poisoning.
- Keep your dog out of your garden if you have poisonous bulbs or plants.
5. On the Road
Warm weather (and summer vacations) are perfect for road trips, and many owners travel with their pets. To ensure your pet's comfort and health:
- Review and update your first aid kit and take it with you.
- Make sure your pet's vaccinations are updated. If your pet is confined to a crate in your vehicle, stop often to allow your pet to stretch and move around.
- Never leave your pet in your enclosed vehicle for any amount of time. Even with the windows cracked, your pet does not receive adequate ventilation.