Summer tips for healthy pets

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This year, take a few easy precautions to try to make sure your pet has as much fun as you do in the warmer months and stays healthy and happy.
Avoid overheating
The single most important tip, experts agree, is never leave your pet in the car. Not for a minute. Not with the windows cracked. Not even in the shade. It doesn’t matter how soon you think you’ll be back. The temperature can quickly rise to hot and even unbearable temperatures. It can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.
According to Dr. Michael Casler of Guilderland Animal Hospital, it’s not safe even if you leave the car running with the air conditioning on. If the car stalls or if the air conditioning stops working, the animal can overheat. “Very quickly.”
Provide unlimited water, inside and out: Make sure your pet has unlimited access to fresh water, even indoors, says Dr. Hope Fulgencio of Capital Vets.
Water placed outside should be in a shady area to keep it from evaporating quickly and to maintain the water at a lower temperature. Check the water level regularly, in case other outdoor animals sometimes share the bowl.
Wash water bowls, whether inside or out, every day.
Allow access to shade: If you must leave your pet outside—which is not recommended—make sure that she has access to shade. Do not tether a dog or cat on a deck or patio where she cannot move to a shady area as the sun shifts.
According to the web site of the Humane Society of the United States, www.aspca.org, a doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.
Don’t take it all off: Some people advise shaving dogs to keep them cool in summer, but Fulgencio says not so fast. She does not recommend shaving because dogs have a layer of fur that provides insulation and prevents overheating. An overly long coat should be trimmed rather than shaved.
Breeds that tolerate heat less well: There are two kinds of breeds that do not tolerate heat well, says Casler. One is the brachycephalic breeds, with the pushed-in noses, like pugs or bulldogs. “They have narrow trachea, usually, for the size of the dog so they can’t breathe that well—plus, they’re mushed in.”
A dog’s cooling system is different from a human’s, he says. We sweat; this evaporates and cools us. He explains that dogs only perspire a little, from their feet and nose but they don’t sweat. Dogs have to get rid of their heat through their respiratory tract and their tongue. So the brachycephalic breeds, in particular, don’t tolerate heat well.
Another type of dog that does not do well in summer is the long-haired heavy-coated breeds, such as huskies or Newfoundlands. Dogs of these types, in particular, should not be walked at mid-day, but early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky.
Treat suspected heatstroke immediately. Move your dog or cat into an air-conditioned area or into the shade. Apply cold towels or ice packs to her head, neck, and chest or run cool water over her. Give her small amounts of cool water to drink or ice cubes to lick. Take her to a veterinarian right away.
Prevent skin conditions
“Summer is dermatology time,” Casler says. “We see an increase in frequency of ear infections and skin infections, usually due to allergies in the summertime. This is very common in dogs.”
He also notes that there’s a direct correlation between humidity and ear infections. Skin infections are sometimes called hot spots, he says. They are most often caused by allergies, and sometimes by flea bites.
Frequent swimming can also cause infections: Casler explains that dogs who are around water a lot are susceptible to skin and ear infections and owners need an ear cleaner for their ears as a preventative measure.
Controls fleas and ticks
It’s a misconception to think that ticks come out only in the summer. They can easily appear in mid-winter if we get three or four days of unseasonably warm weather, Dr. Casler stated to me.
He quotes the Companion Animal Parasite Council as recommending that pets should be treated year-round for flea and tick control. Dogs are susceptible, he adds, to a number of tick-borne diseases, including Lyme, anaplasma, ehrlichiosis, babesia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
If your pets are due for a vet visit in the summer, says Fulgencio, it’s a good idea to have them tested for heartworm and tick-borne diseases including Lyme.
Plan ahead for fireworks
The Fourth of July is known among veterinarians and rescue groups as a time of year when many pets get lost. Dogs or cats can get startled by the sudden loud noises, and bolt.
Keep your pets carefully secured within a fenced area, on-leash, or, in the case of cats, indoors, for the entire long weekend. To be thorough, make sure that they are wearing collars and ID tags.
Avoid lawn chemicals
According to the web site of the ASPCA, ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give a dog an upset stomach and even cause a life-threatening stomach obstruction. Read labels carefully and follow the instructions for when it is safe to let your pets back out in the yard.
Some pesticides can be very dangerous for pets. The most dangerous, according to the ASPCA, include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide, and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas, and be sure to read the instructions for use and storage.
Keep an eye out for critters
It’s common sense, but when you’ve seen skunks or porcupines in your yard, don’t let your dog or cat out unattended.
There are a lot of skunks around at night and first thing in the morning, Casler says. He suggests not letting your dog run unattended through the woods. He recently had his first case this summer of a dog who had encountered a porcupine. “You pick out the quills one by one.”
Keep shots up-to-date: “When an animal comes in with a raccoon or a woodchuck bite, we have to start thinking about rabies,” notes Fulgencio. It’s important all year round, but more important than ever in summer, to make sure your pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations, including rabies.
Travel safely with pets
If your pets are taking a long car ride with you, make sure that they are up-to-date on their shots, Casler says, and that they are on flea and tick preventatives. Many campsites require proof of rabies shots, he notes.
At highway rest stops, he adds, don’t let them spend too much time in the areas designated for dogs. “There’s all sorts of internal parasites in there they can pick up.” Eating other animals’ wastes can have this result, as can stepping in their waste and later licking their feet. Keep an eye on them in these areas.
Secure them in the car: Little dogs should be in crates, Casler says. The crate can be belted in. Big dogs also can go in crates “if you have enough room.” He also recommends harnesses that attach to the seat belt. It’s safer for pets, he says, to be strapped in—just as it is for people—so that they are not ejected from the car in the event of an accident.
At campsites, dogs will need to be contained, he says.
Avoid summer car time for certain breeds:  According to Casler, owners of brachycephalic dogs (pugs, bulldogs) or heavy-coated breeds (huskies, Newfies) should avoid taking them in the car at all.
Summer hazards
Pools and lakes: Dogs should never go in the water unsupervised, Casler emphasizes. “The dog has to be treated like a child. Like a toddler. You would never let a toddler go outside around the pool while you sit inside and watch TV.” If they are left alone, he says, dogs can get stuck in the pool and panic, tearing up the liner and they can even drown.
The ASPCA web site warns: make sure your dog wears a flotation device on board a boat.
Windows: Make sure that any open windows have screens, and that the screens are tightly secured.
With a little extra planning, you should be able to ensure that your pet has a happy —and safe—summer.

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