Pets 101

Summer Safety – Life’s a beach for your pets with these tips

By Melissa Wiley

Dog on Beach

Rising summertime temperatures and blue skies are as freeing for Scooter and Spot as they are for you and me. However, while summer beckons pets and people alike to get out there and play, this freewheeling season also poses its own risks for four-footed adventurers. Fortunately, forewarned is always forearmed. So here are some of our safety tips for the pet who is ready to take on the world this summer, but has that twinge of thunderphobia and certain attraction for fleas and ticks.


Summer invites free-roaming playtime for Fido, which unfortunately exacerbates the likelihood that your pet could stray too far from home while chasing that runaway kite. Microchipping acts as a high-tech form of insurance that your four-legged family can be safely reunited should you become separated. Not all microchip scanners read all microchips, however. So before having the chip implanted, be sure to check with your local animal shelters to ensure that the type of microchip your vet is implanting is compatible with their scanners.

Poolside Protection

Don’t assume that your dog will take like a duck to water. Not all pooches are natural swimmers, so keep close watch over Squirt as he’d lounging pool- or lakeside. Pool water is also a far from nourishing way to relieve your pet’s thirst, as it contains chlorine and other chemicals that can cause stomach upset. And when you bring Fido along for the ride on your motorboat, be sure to outfit him with his very own fitted flotation device.

Heat Protection

Summer heat is as redundant as ants at a picnic. But the danger of heat without sufficient relief to your pet is a real one. A dog, for instance, can withstand an elevated body temperature for only a brief time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage, or even death.

Possibly nowhere are dogs so endangered by the heat as when trapped inside a car. A study by Stanford University found that even on a mild 72-degree (Fahrenheit) day, the internal temperature of a car can skyrocket to a suffocating 116 degrees within an hour, even with windows cracked for ventilation. On an 85-degree day, a mere 10 minutes is necessary for the temperature inside a car to soar to 102 degrees, and 30 minutes for the thermometer to hit 120 degrees. The website MyDogIsCool.com allows you to type in your zip code to find out if it’s too hot in your area to take Rover on the road with you.

Even when Chewy is comfortably placed outside the car, the heat can still catch up with the most energetic of pooches. So give your pet extra water when temps are topping 80 degrees and make sure Fido has a place of respite in the shade at all times when out and about.

And when you’re pounding the sun-baked pavement in your sandals, don’t neglect FiFi’s tender, heat-sensitive paws, which can burn easily on hot asphalt and concrete. You may consider buying protective canine shoes if you can’t confine your pooch’s playful footsteps to the cooler grass.

Pets are also susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so keep Fido’s workout to the cooler early morning and evening hours on days that get your sweat on before you even get going. Signs of heat stress include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heart rate, unsteadiness, vomiting, and a deep red or purple tongue.

And remember that pets can sunburn too. Sun-sensitive doggie noses and ear tips warrant pet-friendly sunscreen protection. Felines fond of windowsill perches can also benefit from sunscreen on their ear tips.


Fear of thunder and summer sounds like 4th of July fireworks similar to thunder—otherwise known as thunderphobia—can take even the bravest of pets by surprise and make them want to hide under the covers or picnic table, as the case may be. To combat stress occasioned by the sounds of patriotic fervor and nature alike, consider the following tips from Dr. Debra Horwitz, veterinarian and canine-behavior expert:

1. Divert your doggie’s attention with sweets: Keep Fido’s attention off the thunder or the fireworks by presenting something even more engaging: food! If your pooch is more easily engaged by play activities, give his favorite game a gander.

2. Reassure without rewarding negative behavior: Be careful not to reinforce the thunderphobia at hand through well-intentioned sympathetic behavior, such as petting. This can make your dog feel like there really is something to fear. Instead, use a happy, energetic tone of voice and engage in playful movements that pair these frightening noises with positive, engaging behavior.

3. Desensitize: Anything, even the boom of fireworks and thunder, becomes less frightening with familiarity. So familiarize your dog—and gradually desensitize him or her to its shock value—with audio recordings of the summertime “kabooms.” Start by playing the recordings fairly softly, and then gradually increase their volume as your pooch reacts less and less to the noise.

Homeopathic remedies are also widely available, increasingly popular, and have shown promising results among some of the shyest of dogs when thunder strikes. Many guardians of thunderphobic pooches swear by Rescue Remedy, one of the Bach Flower remedies known for treating stress and anxiety in dogs. And calming collars containing aromatic herbs such as lavender and mint can assuage the fears of some of the most high-strung of canines. Anxiety wraps, such as the Thundershirt (Thundershirt.com), mimic the swaddling sensation for your furry friend—the sensation of light pressure on Sassy’s skin has a calming effect. Before beginning a homeopathic or prescribed regimen, however, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian.

Flea and Tick Bites

Pets and pests intermix in the summer all too frequently for Muffy’s liking, especially if she’s one of the millions of four-footed citizens with flea or tick allergies. Products designed to keep your pet flea- and tick-free run the gamut from sprays to collars to shampoos to ingestible tablets. Herbal remedies also pose an earth-friendly, nonchemical solution to one of nature’s biggest summertime annoyances. Herbal flea collars featuring various scents designed to repel fleas are widely available. Keeping your pet closely and regularly groomed also helps to eliminate the possibility that fleas and ticks have a safe place to hide.

If you notice red welts on your pet’s skin post flea or tick encounter, immediately clean the lesions with an antiseptic cleanser such as witch hazel before applying triple antibiotic ointment. You may also want to make a visit to the vet to ensure that your four-legged friend doesn’t already have a secondary infection.

And because ticks flourish in shady, humid areas, you can also reduce your pet’s risk of confrontation with these pests at home by keeping your yard a place of minimal shade with short grass and little brush. Frequent vacuuming inside your home also serves the same purpose indoors.

High-Rise Syndrome

Doggie summer revelers may encounter the threat of ticks and fleas at picnics, but felines face their own unique summertime danger at home. With climbing temperatures naturally come open windows, often unscreened to facilitate fresh breezes the more easily. Open windows can also be an invitation to your cat, however, to leap before looking, a phenomenon so widespread that it has been dubbed by veterinarians as High-Rise Syndrome.

Contributing to the prevalence of this syndrome is the fact that window surfaces are often difficult for cats to cling to and cats can easily become distracted while gazing outside, lose their balance, and fall. In contrast to the common supposition that cats always land on their feet, felines can easily lose their balance and experience pelvis and head injuries from falls. They can also become injured just as easily from short as from long falls, as shorter distances give cats less time to adjust their body position.

To protect your cat from life-threatening falls this summer, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends taking the following precautions:

• Install tightly fitting and sturdy screens in all of your windows.

• Make sure that adjustable screens are wedged snuggly into window frames.

• Don’t rely on childproof window guards to keep Fluffy from jumping or slipping.

Snake Bites and Bee and Wasp Stings

Pets enjoy snake bites and bee and wasp stings about as much as you and I do. And if your pet happens to be allergic to those buzzing insects’ bite or is bitten by a venomous snake, this common summertime hazard could prove life threatening. You can safely assume that a stinging insect or snake got the best of your pet if you notice immediate swelling on your pet’s body and Sassy just won’t stop itching. Following is a basic course of action in case your four-legged friend meets with an unsought natural foe while out and about.

Bee and wasp stings

1. Try to identify the bee or wasp’s stinger, and then scrape it away using a blunt object. Do not try to pull out the stinger with tweezers or your fingers; doing so could release additional venom into your pet’s body.

2. Although it’s not safe for all pets, Benadryl (1 mg per pound of your pet’s body weight) can help combat swelling and itching associated with allergic reactions. Ideally, you should check with your vet to see if your pet could safely benefit from Benadryl before you and your pet find yourself in this situation. An ice pack should also be applied to assist in reduction of swelling.

3. Closely monitor your pet, especially the area on your pet’s body where she was stung, for the next several hours. If you see an extension of swelling beyond the sting site or notice that FiFi is having trouble breathing or seems more than ordinarily fatigued, bring her into the vet immediately.

Snake bites

1. Keep your pet as still and as calm as possible. The slower your pet’s breathing and heart rate, the more slowly he will absorb the snake’s venom.

2. If the bite was on the neck, remove your pet’s collar. If the bite took place on a limb, keep the limb below heart level.

3. Call your vet or animal emergency clinic and tell them that you need antivenom for a snake bite. (Note: Not all veterinarians keep this in stock.) Ask if you should administer Benadryl to your pet in the meantime (normally, 1 mg per pound of your pet’s body weight).

4. While you are still on the phone, do your best to identify the type of snake without getting close to it.

5. Transport your pet to the vet or emergency clinic immediately.

6. Under no circumstances should you try to cut the wound, suck out the poison, or apply ice or a tourniquet to the bite wound.

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