Plan Now for a Summer of Fun with your Pet
Plan Now for a Summer of Fun with your Pet
By Cindy McGovern
While summer can be a season of fun and relaxation for us, it can be a season of stress and danger for your pets. Whether it’s fireworks, thunderstorms, heat, or barbecue grills, a little preparation and planning will keep your loved ones safe.
Fireworks are a July 4th standard. While you may “ooh and aah” over the display, your pet may have a decidedly different reaction to this summer ritual.
The noise, crowds and new sensations can frighten even the most outgoing pet and there’s always a risk they will become spooked and run away. While some may enjoy the excitement, in most cases it’s best to leave your pets at home when you go to a fireworks display, parade, or other unfamiliar gathering.
If you do plan to be out with your pet, ensure they have current identification tags with up-to-date information as well as a current photo. Also consider microchipping them. Both steps will greatly increase your odds of getting your pet back if they happen to run away during the excitement.
If you’re staying at home, make sure the environment is safe and secure. Cats are notorious for finding space where they feel safe, but dogs may need more help. Check in on your cats, play some quiet music for them, and keep them inside.
If your dog is crate trained, they’ll likely feel safest there if you plan to leave them alone. If you will be home with them, play white noise or music to help distract them. Keep them away from windows and close the curtains so they can’t see the display. Many pets have favorite toys or blankets so make sure they’re accessible. Finally, an anxiety shirt, wrap, or even a snug t-shirt can calm a pet by applying gentle, constant pressure; similar to swaddling an infant.
If you know there will be fireworks in your neighborhood, ensure your yard is secure enough to keep your pet contained. And check your yard for fireworks debris before your pets go outside. Even if you didn’t set off fireworks yourself, debris can make its way into your yard, where your curious pet can pick it up or eat.
The same steps you take for the Fourth may also be necessary during thunderstorms. Thunderstorm phobia is a disorder with persistent and exaggerated fear of storms, or the stimuli associated with storms. It can occur in both dogs and cats, but dogs are often more susceptible. To treat this fear, first know your pet, including what scares and soothes them. You should also consult your veterinarian to rule out any conditions which can cause similar behavioral responses such as separation anxiety, barrier frustration, and noise phobias.
Every year, hundreds of animals suffer needlessly and die in hot cars. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes. The longer you wait, the higher it goes. At 60 minutes, the temperature in your vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. On a 70-degree day, that’s 110 degrees inside your vehicle. Your vehicle can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet at risk of serious illness and even death, even on a day that doesn’t seem hot to you. And cracking the windows makes no difference. The best solution is to leave your pet at home.
Remember that too much sun, heat, and humidity can be dangerous to pets. Keep them inside when it’s extremely hot or humid and make sure they have access to shady spots and plenty of water when outdoors. Most importantly, know the signs that a pet may be overheating. For dogs, it would include heavy panting, dry or pale gums, increased drooling, and deep, rapid breathing.
If you think your dog may be overheated, begin cooling your dog down by soaking his body with cool water – cool, but not cold. Use a hose, wet towels, or any other source of cool water. Concentrate the cooling water on his head, neck, and in the areas underneath his front and back legs.
In spite of their reputation as desert animals, cats don’t tolerate heat any better than people. Cats only pant or sweat through their foot pads to get rid of excess heat. As their body temperature rises, a cat will suffer heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke. For cats, signs of overheating include restlessness as they try to find a cool spot, panting, sweaty feet, drooling, or excessive grooming in an effort to cool off.
While your cat may not like a cool bath, the treatment is largely the same as for dogs. However, a bag of ice or frozen vegetables placed between their legs or on the back of their neck will also help. In any case of suspected heat stroke, call your veterinarian immediately.
Who doesn’t like a good barbecue or picnic? While it may seem like a great idea to reward your pet with scraps from the grill, think again. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips to keep your pet safe:
- • Know which foods are potentially toxic to dogs and cats. Don’t feed them onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, salt, or yeast dough.
- • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them.
- • Don’t apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet unless it is labeled specifically for use on animals.
- • Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach.
- • Don’t put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it.
- • Keep citronella candles, insect coils, and tiki torch oil products out of reach.
Summer can still be a season of outdoor fun with your pet. As long as you know the risks and know your pet, you have all you need to keep them safe.
Cindy McGovern is a long-time pet owner who currently resides with Bella, a gorgeous Siberian cat.