We had a long, hard winter in the Midwest this year. The warm weather has finally arrived and Chicagoans definitely like to take advantage of it while we have the opportunity. For many of us, that may involve including pets in summer plans. With temperatures rising and our companion animals being exposed to everything from fleas and ticks to poisonous plant life, there are a few things every pet guardian should be aware of so that we can keep our pets safe this summer.
Just like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to heatstroke, dehydration and sunburn. First and foremost, never leave animals alone in a hot car for any period of time. On an 85 degree day the temperature inside a car can soar to between 100-120 degrees in just 10 minutes. Parking in the shade or leaving windows cracked open offers little protection. Animals can sustain brain damage or die from heatstroke in a matter of minutes. Leave your animals at home in hot weather.
When it’s extremely hot and that heat index is soaring, limit walk time and try to keep your dog in the shade as much as possible to prevent sunburn. Sunscreen for pets or babies can be applied to the nose and the tips of the ears. Also, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being close to the ground, your dog’s body can heat up quickly and sensitive paw pads can burn.
Let’s not forget about our feline friends. Cats should not be left alone outside in the heat. House cats are also at risk for heatstroke in a very hot home or apartment. Turn on air conditioning or fans to help keep cats cool. Cats don’t pant in the same way dogs do to cool themselves. If you see a cat panting, that’s a fairly serious indication that they are overheating and may be coming close to heatstroke.
Always makes sure your animals have access to fresh, clean drinking water to prevent dehydration.
Signs of heatstroke in dogs and cats: excessive panting, trouble breathing, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, deep red or purple tongue or gums, drooling, vomiting, staggering, unsteadiness, seizures.
If you need to treat an animal with heatstroke, move the animal out of the heat and follow the steps suggested by the American Red Cross. Most importantly, get the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Plant Life/Lawn Products
Many lawn care products are toxic to animals such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and cocoa bean mulch. Several species of outdoor plant life can be poisonous to animals. Some wild mushrooms can be especially toxic to pets. For a full list please visit the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant Page, where you can search for a plant by name and toxicity to a particular type of animal.
It’s always prudent to keep an eye on your pet in unfamiliar yards and wooded areas and do not give them unrestricted access to places with unknown plant life or lawn treatment products.
If you believe your pet has swallowed a poisonous substance, contact your veterinarian immediately or you can call the ASPCA Emergency Poison Hotline 888-426-4435.
Fleas and ticks are not just a nuisance. Ticks transmit Lyme Disease and fleas can cause tapeworms and parasitic anemia. Fleas and Ticks are at their peak during the summer months. Talk to your veterinarian about the safest prevention method for your pet.
If your pet has been in a wooded area, be sure to check for ticks. Ticks are black, brown or tan and they have 8 legs. Run your fingers slowly over your pet's entire body. If you feel a bump or a swollen spot, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don't limit your search to your pet's torso. Check between toes, under armpits, inside ears, face and chin.
If you need to remove a tick, follow these steps from the Humane Society of the United States.
The first thing to remember is make sure that your pet is in a secured area or leashed at all times. Be sure not to lose a cat or dog out of an open door during a party. If people are going to be entering and exiting all day, consider sequestering pets in their own room or part of the house with a door that closes.
If your pet is part of the festivities, you may have to inform guests that all bbq food is not appropriate and may actually be toxic. Bones and fruits with pits are choking hazards. Avocados, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, raw meat, chocolate and alcohol are toxic to cats and dogs. Toothpicks and skewers can pierce the intestines if swallowed.
Lastly, don’t leave pets unattended around pools. It’s a common mistake thinking that all cats and dogs instinctively know how to swim. If you have dog that does enjoy swimming, be sure to rinse your dog off after a swim in chlorinated pool water. Chlorine is a chemical and it can irritate the skin.
High Rise Syndrome
Balconies and windows pose a very real threat to our pets. A large number of cats in particular fall to their deaths each year. Keep balcony doors closed and make sure to secure all window screens or consider child-safety window guards. If you live in a multi-level building closing windows and turning on the air conditioning is a safe alternative. It’s also important to remember that cats can easily be enticed over the edge of a balcony by an insect or a bird. Don’t leave cats unsupervised on balconies.
Hopefully with a little preparation and awareness we can keep our animals safe and have a great summer.