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Summertime Health Risks for Your Pet

Summertime Health Hazards for your Pet

Risk #1:  The heat

• Leaving your pet in the car on a warm day is an absolute NO. 
The temperature inside a car can skyrocket after just a few minutes.  Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked does very little to alleviate this pressure cooker.   On a 30 degree day the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 40 degrees within only ten minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 43 degrees. At 43 degrees, pets are in danger of heatstroke.  
However, the outdoor temperature doesn't always matter - it's whether it's sunny out. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurs within the first half-hour. Even on a relatively cool day, the temperature inside a parked car can quickly spike to life-threatening levels if the sun is out. 

• Use caution when exercising your pets in the hot weather.  Ideally, you should go for a walk either first thing in the morning or later in the evening when it is not as hot.  Dogs do not recognize that they are too hot to go for a walk - it is up to us to regulate this.

• Pets can get sunburns just like us.  Try not to let your pet sit in the direct sun for too long at a time.  Hairless breeds should use a sunscreen safe for pets to protect their skin.  The use of a light t-shirt also works well to avoid sunburn.  There are even sunglasses that you can buy for pets to protect their eyes.  Always provide access to shade.

• Remember that on a hot day your pet will want to drink more so offer plenty of fresh water. 

Risk #2:  Garden Hazards

• Several common garden plants can be poisonous to pets.  Some examples include Lilies (they are extremely toxic to cats), Castor Bean, Azalea, Geraniums and Clematis.  There are many more species of plants that are toxic.  A complete listing can be found at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/.

• Slug baits and rodent baits can kill pets.  Do not use these in your garden if you have pets that go outside. 

• Some lawn chemicals and fertilizers can cause gastric upset if ingested, or contact burns on paws.

• Mulches made from cocoa hulls can cause methylxanthine toxicosis in dogs that ingest it.  Symptoms include vomiting, increased heart rate, and tremors.  The ASPCA recommends that dogs that are unsupervised in the yard should not be exposed to Cocoa mulch.  Cocoa beans contain theobromine which is the same substance that causes the well known chocolate toxicity in dogs. 

Risk #3:  Poisons

In addition to toxic plants, slug bait and rat poison, some other poisons are a risk to your pet during the summer.

• Flea and tick medications:  These medications often contain permethrins which are toxic to cats.  Be sure to read the label on your medications and use them only as directed.
• Antifreeze:  Antifreeze is a concern in the summer as well as the winter.  In the hot weather cars may overheat and leak antifreeze.  Antifreeze has a pleasant taste. Unfortunately, very small amounts can be lethal. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than four teaspoons can be dangerous to a 10-pound dog. Thoroughly clean up any spills, store antifreeze in tightly closed containers and store in secured cabinets. Automotive products such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze should be stored in areas that are inaccessible to your pets. Propylene glycol is a safer form of antifreeze.
If you think your pet has consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4-ANI-HELP) right away!


Risk #4:  Summertime activities that may be dangerous for your pet

• Barbeques are a classic summertime activity for many people.  Be sure not to give your dog the leftovers from your party.  Every year several corn-cob husks are removed from the intestines of dogs, as well as chicken and rib bones.  Keep all garbage and composts well out of reach from your pets.  You should also take care to keep pets away from hot barbeques to avoid the potential for burns. 

• Swimming can be an excellent way for dogs to exercise.  However, ensure that the swimming area you choose is safe.  Rivers can have extremely dangerous currents that can easily pull dogs under.  Make sure your dog will come back when it's called, as sometimes a dog will decide to swim into deeper waters away from shore and become stranded.  Pets around backyard swimming pools need constant supervision, as some pets are not good swimmers and could drown if they fall into the pool.

• Boating is another risky activity for pets.  A dog or cat in a boat should wear a life jacket just as we should.  Even if a dog is a good swimmer, sometimes in a boating accident they may be stranded in the middle of the lake, or twisted in some ropes.  Life jackets save pets lives too.

• Fireworks can cause pets to become extremely anxious due to the loud noise.  The same holds true for thunderstorms.   There are natural products one can use to reduce anxiety such as the Bach Flower Remedies, or prescription medications that can be prescribed by a veterinarian. 

Be sure to check out our Pet Tales Archive year 2010 for additional information on summer health hazards.