Our beautiful Wisconsin Summer has finally arrived, and while many of us are loving the warmer temperatures, the hotter weather can become dangerous very quickly for our furry companions. Preventing heat stroke, being aware of how hot asphalt can be on your pup’s paws, and properly storing gardening tools and insecticides in a safe place are just a few things we should be wary of, and there are many other precautions we as pet owners can take to keep our pets safe during the warm summer months!
Here are some tips to help keep your beloved dog(s) safe this summer season:
1. Stay hydrated and find shade. It’s probably a no-brainer for most of us to recognize that the hot temperatures require not only us to have more water, but our dogs, too. Try to keep your beloved pets as cool as possible. When outdoors, seek shade when possible, but remember, the shade moves with the sun and the shady spots available to you may not last long. Make sure there is plenty of water available to your pet throughout the duration of your time outside. If you’re outside for a long period of time, try to encourage your pet to take “breaks” in shade or indoors where it’s cooler as much as possible. If your pup has a dog house, this also probably isn’t the best option for keeping cool, as these small shelters can trap heat in and make for an even hotter environment. When the temperature is really high and you’re out on walks, be careful of hot asphalt. Your dog’s paws can burn on the hot concrete, so keep walks during hot temperatures quick and short to help prevent their sensitive paws from burning. A quick tip: to test how hot the pavement is, use the back of your hand; if you can’t comfortably hold it there for ten seconds, it’s too hot for your pet to be walking on.
2. Offer “cool” and safe activities/outings. What better way to cool off on a hot day than taking a dip in the local river or lake! (Be aware of bacteria levels as some bodies of water are not always safe to wade in; check with a lifeguard on duty or your local city ordinances). We love taking a few of our regular dogs we walk out to a local lake and love the excitement he shows us when he’s able to splash and play in the water on a hot day! (Just don’t let your pup drink the water). And remember, swimming can be hard work even for a dog, so watch for any signs that he is getting tired. Never leave your dog unattended and never force him/her into the water if he doesn’t want to go. Additionally, if you do take your pup out in the water, be sure to give him/her a good rinse when you return home. If you don’t have access to a local lake/stream, though, try filling up a kiddie pool for your dog to cool off in in your yard!
3. Be cautious when traveling. We all know how much our pets love getting in the car for a ride or even accompanying us on a vacation, but when traveling with our pet in the warmer months, we may need to take a few extra precautions to ensure our dogs stay comfortable and safe. Putting a sun shade on the car windows, having an ample supply of fresh water in a bowl, and having a spray bottle available to cool down your dog are all a few helpful tips to keep in mind when traveling. You can also place ice packs inside your dog’s crate (but wrap them up in a cloth or towel, first). Placing a cooling pad inside his/her crate may also work well. And of course, never, ever leave your pet in the car. According to the ASPCA, on an 85 degree day, “it only takes ten minutes for the inside of your car to reach 102 degrees.” And after just 30 minutes, the temperature can get up to 120 degrees! Cracking your car’s windows likely won’t help, either. A car can overheat quickly even when windows have been left open an inch or two. So please, never leave your pets unattended in the car.
4. Know the signs of dehydration and heat stroke. Prevention is key to keeping your pets safe in the hot summer months, however, it is also important to know the signs that something may be seriously wrong with your pet so you can take appropriate action. Dehydration happens when the body loses more fluids than it is taking in. Some signs of dehydration in your dog can include: excessive panting, difficulty breathing, dry nose and gums, and sunken eyes. If a dog is exposed to hot temperatures for too long, heatstroke can also occur. Signs of heatstroke can include: difficultly balancing, white or blue looking gums, lethargy (sluggish, not wanting to move), labored, heavy breathing, increased heart rate, drooling, weakness and even seizures or collapsing. Some dogs may also experience bloody diarrhea or vomiting as well as a higher body temperature that may exceed 104 degrees. Heatstroke can turn deadly if no action is taken, so if you notice any of these signs or symptoms, get your dog medical attention right away.
5. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are current. Regular trips to your trusted veterinarian can help keep your pet in his/her best health possible. Make sure your pet has the most up-to-date vaccinations and has all the necessary preventative medication, such as for heartworm and other parasites such as fleas and ticks.
6. Keep your pets safe while enjoying outdoor barbecues and family gatherings. Summer is such a great time for family gatherings and outdoor barbecues with friends and family! We want our pets to enjoy these special gatherings, too, but we need to be mindful of the hazards that may be around us that could be unsafe for our pets. Obviously, keeping alcoholic drinks away from pets is important to prevent depression and comas, and yes, dogs can get intoxicated, too. Also, foods such as grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate, and products that contain xylitol (found in many sweetened drinks) should also be kept away from your pets. Other fruits and vegetables that have “pits” such as avocados, cherries, peaches and plums, etc. should also be avoided or kept out of reach of your pets. Be aware of skewers, bones from meat, toothpicks (from fruit or other platters) and other choking hazards that your pet may find or reach, as well. The dangers don’t stop at items from the food though, either. A few other things to be careful of can include keeping your pet away from coals or ash from bonfires, lighter fluid, charcoal, and citronella candles or torches.
7. Store gardening insecticides and pest control supplies in a safe place and out of pet’s reach. With summertime comes a lot of pests and insects that many of us try to control by using insecticides or insect coils. Those, along with other lawn and garden products, are often poisonous and should be kept out of reach of your beloved pets. If you fear your pet may have ingested something poisonous, call your local veterinarian. The ASPCA also suggests calling their Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. Keep this or another poison control center’s phone number handy in the case of an emergency.
8. Keep your pet away from poisonous plants. So many of us enjoy planting and gardening in the summer, but there are several outdoor plants that are actual toxic to our beloved pets. If you’re anything like me, you may not actually know a lot about all the different variations of plants and flowers around, so I usually find it best to discourage pets from chewing on any plants or vegetation, to be safe. However, if you have a green thumb and can identify most plants, these are some to steer clear of with your pet: hemlock, any mushrooms you can’t identify as safe, English Ivy, Thorn Apple, Oleander, Amaryllis, Bleeding hearts, Chrysanthemums, flower bulbs, Rhubarb, Stinging nettles, Tulips, and Lily of the valley. There are several other plants and flowers that are also toxic; If your pet has access to a garden area or other plants that you are unsure of, do your research. There are several websites and even some apps you can use to identify the plants around you to ensure your pet isn’t being exposed to toxic vegetation. You can also check out the ASPCA’s website for a list of toxic and non-toxic plants.
9. Leave pets safely secured at home during Fourth of July celebrations. Independence Day is just around the corner! I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to the beautiful displays of fireworks and spending time outside with my loved ones! Unfortunately, though, as most of us know, our furry friends are often not the biggest fans of the loud booms and sounds that come from these beautiful displays. Many of us also have neighbors who love setting off their own fireworks and firecrackers from home, sometimes before the holiday has even arrived. Being mindful of your local neighborhood and paying attention to your pet when these “booms” do happen is important. I’ve heard many stories about dogs running away from home out of fear after hearing fireworks or other noises of celebration. Make sure your pet is secured in a safe place in your home and that there are no windows or doors open for your pet to run away. Many dog owners I know decide to skip the local fireworks shows to stay home with their pets to keep them comforted; this is another great option that may work for you and your family, too! However, if you do decide to leave your pet at home, it’s best to leave them in a quiet, sheltered and “escape-proof” area. Additionally, if your pet is one that does actually like to venture outside when fireworks are going on, be careful never to use them near your pets. Fireworks that have not been used yet should also be kept out of reach, and be aware of other hazardous materials such as lighters or the remaining scraps from fireworks that your dog may get into.
Remember, prevention is often the key in keeping your dog safe this summer. Limiting time outdoors, shortening walks in the hot sun, having rest periods for your dog when it’s hot, and encouraging your dog to stay hydrated are all small steps that can make a huge difference in preventing heat stroke and keeping you and your dog happy and safe this summer season! If you need more tips and tricks on how to keep your pet safe in the hot Wisconsin summer or to learn more about additional signs of heat stress that may not have been mentioned here, reach out to your trusted, local veterinarian. He or she can share additional information on how you and your family can continue to provide a safe home environment for your pets.
Additionally, if you are having any difficulty juggling the high demands of owning a pet and keeping him safe, please reach out! All of us at Milwaukee Paws Pet Care understand how much goes into keeping your beloved pets safe year-round, and with summer vacations, family obligations, work, and other day-to-day demands, we understand that sometimes you just need someone to step in when you can’t be there! If you are interested in learning more about how we can help meet the needs of your furry family members, please reach out today. Our staff and myself are all dedicated to providing the highest quality care in the comfort of your own home. We look forward to helping make a positive impact in meeting the complex needs of your pets and keeping them safe, happy and healthy year-round!