Dog days of summer

Summertime has arrived, ramping up the number of traditional seasonal troublemakers such as scraped up knees, elbows, and chins, scratches, bug bites, bee stings, sunburn, dehydration, allergic reactions, and problems that can come with favorite picnic fare: the occasional case of food poisoning or plain old upset stomach.

If your dog or cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance this summer, it is important to contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance.

While there is no way to avoid each and every potential summertime upset, there are simple things to remember which can help you and yours avoid or prevent some of these seasonal traumas.

One very important reminder for pet owners, or pet sitters: animals can require a great deal more clean drinking water at this time of the year.

Dehydration, over heating, and excess sun exposure and eating spoiled foods -those not kept properly refrigerated – is not just life threatening to humans, it is also a killer when it comes to the family pets.

Whether you are referring to humans or pets, those at greatest risk from such seasonal threats include the very young, those in fragile health, and the elderly.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers pet owners some basic tips for keeping cats and dogs safe from avoidable summertime ills, with experts offering a reminder that even the healthiest of pets can suffer from dehydration, heat stroke, and even sunburn if over exposed to heat and sun.

The effort to maintain any pet’s health is with regular visits to the veterinarian, keeping current on all shots and screenings such as their annual springtime heartworm blood work.

Keeping cats and dogs well hydrated is particularly vital to maintaining their good health during the extreme weather challenges of the summer months.

Making sure your pets have ready access to cool shaded areas is also important when trying to stave off heat and dehydration related conditions.

An all too often overlooked danger to your pet’s safety is literally underfoot: hot asphalt. The danger to a pet’s paws is particularly real if they are allowed to spend time on such surfaces.

“Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle,” adds Dr. Louise Murray of the ASPCA. “On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop, which is potentially fatal. Symptoms of overheating in pets can include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, seizures, and an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.”

Some breeds are at greater risk of heat related troubles thanks to the difficulty they have when it comes to panting and may be more comfortable in an air conditioned environment than out of doors.

“Animals with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively,” she said. “These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.”

Being the perfect barbecue or picnic host includes making sure no one give human food or drinks to the animals, as some may be poisonous to pets.

“Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression, comas, or even death,” says Dr. Hansen. “Similarly, remember that the snacks you serve your friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments.”

It is particularly important to avoid feeding pets summer season fare such as raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitrd.

Checking warning labels on lawn products can also go a long way in protecting your pets from accidental poisonings. When walking your dog be alert and avoid areas that might have been sprayed with insecticides or herbicide lawn products.

Common flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), insecticides, and herbicide lawn products can also be harmful to both cats and dogs. And while some flea products can be used safely on dogs, they can be deadly to cats, because of the presence of the chemical permethrin. Information about this chemical should be listed on product labels.

Just as we exercise water safety habits with family and friends, they should also be extended to our pets, say ASPCA experts.

Do not leave pets unsupervised around pools. Introduce your pets to water gradually and always have them wear floatation devices when on a boat. Not every dog is a good swimmer.

Help prevent your pet drinking pool water by having clean, cool fresh water readily available to them at all times.

If you happen to have windows that are routinely left open, regardless what floor of a building you are on, it is important to install screens or to keep the windows shut, as a pet falling from a window or ledge can easily be seriously hurt or killed.

Regardless, using common sense and keeping a watchful eye will greatly increase your summer fun and that of your pet!

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