Sun's out, pup's out, Illinois Times' readers! Buddy the Cavachon here to discuss some important health and wellness tips to help you make your pet's summers safe and comfortable. Pet owners know that high temperatures and sweltering sunlight can be uncomfortable, but let's take a moment to stop and think about how the dog days of summer can affect our animals, and what you can do to help.
Dehydration and heatstroke
Pets can get dehydrated just like people. Common signs of dehydration in pets are loss of appetite, vomiting, reduced energy or listlessness, panting and thick saliva accompanying a dry nose and mouth. Loss of skin elasticity is also a common sign, and you can test your pet by gently holding some of the skin by your pet's shoulder blades, releasing it and noticing whether or not it returns to its original shape. Dehydrated pets' skin will take a bit longer to fall into place. If your pet is showing signs of dehydration or heat stroke, consult your vet so they can replace fluids immediately.
To prevent pet dehydration, make clean drinking water readily available to your pet, avoid peak temperatures, and never leave your pet in an unventilated or enclosed space, such as a car or a hot garage. If your pet needs walks, consider taking them during the early morning or late evening hours. Stick to the shade, and offer water upon return – it's the "leashed" you can do!
Grooming and paws
For dogs and pets with longer or thicker hair, a summer haircut can be a big help toward keeping cool. But don't shave your pets in the summertime. Doing so leaves us susceptible to sunburns and interferes with the heat protection that our coats naturally give us.
As far as paws are concerned, super-hot pavement can leave burns on your pet's feet. This is especially true for puppies who have ultra-sensitive paw pads. Avoiding burnt paws is another reason to take walks during the morning or evening hours when the sunlight isn't cooking the pavement. Other tips are to stay on the grass, consider pet booties or shoes, or talk to your vet about pet balm for sore paw pads. Signs that your pet has burnt paws include licking, limping and visible blisters or redness.
Parasites and poisons
Fleas and ticks are both prevalent during the spring and summer, so be sure that your pet is taking their prevention medication as prescribed by their veterinarian. Summer mosquitos spread heartworm (who knew?), so be sure to remove or reduce sources of standing water and consider using mosquito repelling plants and products in your yard – as long as they are pet-approved.
Poison ivy, oak and sumac all come out during the summer months. While these plants don't pose as much of a threat to pets as they do to humans (thanks, fur coats), pets who get oils on their fur can indeed pass these common allergens along to people. Keep a close eye on your path and bathe animals that you suspect may have come into contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac (be sure to wear gloves).
Pesticides, fertilizers and even some plants can be harmful to your pet as well. Dogs that have been exposed to pesticides may present with skin rashes, vomiting, eye irritation or even respiratory problems. When you are finished spraying weeds and whatnot, put your yard products where your pets cannot access them. Also, be sure you read up on any lawn products that you use in order to determine how long to keep pets (and children) off of the lawn. In some cases, it may take as long as three days for your lawn to be safe after you've applied a yard treatment.
If you think your pet has ingested something that has made them ill, call your vet for an appointment. Be sure to take a photo of the offending plant or product and bring it along in order to help identify what is going on.
Swimming and boating
I love a pool "pawty" just as much as my human brothers, but just like them, I can get pretty tired out from all of that doggie paddling. Keep an eye on your pets for signs of fatigue and stay close if they are new to swimming and don't know their limits. For longer swimming adventures or boating, consider a pet-sized life jacket, and make sure it fits properly. In both cases, keep clean water nearby so that your pet isn't tempted to ingest too much pool or lake water.
With these health and safety tips in mind, I have no doubt that you and your pets will be made "fur" summer days.
Buddy Savage is a Cavachon dog living in Springfield. He enjoys long walks, hiding his humans' socks and pilfering granola bars.