NEW YORK—As the temperature starts to rise, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) reminds pet owners of simple ways to help animals beat the heat and have a happy and healthy summer.
"Most people love to spend the warmer days enjoying the outdoors with friends and family, but it is important to remember that some activities can be dangerous for our pets," said Dr. Camille DeClementi, senior toxicologist at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. "By following a few simple rules, it is easy to keep your pet safe while still having fun in the sun."
Here are some of the ways animal lovers can ensure their pets have a safe summer:
- Keep Cool. Dogs and cats can become dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of water when it is hot outdoors. Also make sure your pet has a shady place to escape the sun if outside, and when the temperature is very high, don't let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your dog's body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. "Pet owners should never leave their animals unattended in a parked vehicle," added Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. "Parked cars, even with windows open, become very hot in a short amount of time, and this can lead to heatstroke or death."
- Spot the Symptoms. The symptoms of overheating in pets can include increased heart, drooling, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, mild weakness, seizures and an elevated body temperature (over 104 degrees). Elderly, overweight, and pets with heart or lung diseases are more susceptible to heatstroke. Pets with short muzzles like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats become overheated because they cannot effectively pant. These pets should be kept in air conditioning to stay cool.
- Visit the Vet. A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations. Pets should also be given a blood test for heartworm disease every year in the early spring. The deadly parasite is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, and it is recommended that dogs and cats be on monthly preventive medication year-round.
- Pest-Free Pets. Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides, insecticides and some lawn products can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. "When walking your dog, steer clear of areas you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other lawn products," added Dr. DeClementi. "Citronella candles, oil products and insect coils should also be kept out of pets' reach." Some flea products that can be used safely on dogs can be deadly to cats, so be sure to read the directions on all flea and tick products carefully and follow the label instructions exactly.
- Party Smarts. Summertime can be perfect for backyard barbecues or parties, but remember that the food and drink you serve your guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, and remember that the snacks you serve your friends should not be treats for your pet. Any change of diet – even for one meal – may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Make sure to avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol, since these are poisonous to pets.
- Fireworks are not Friendly. Leave pets at home when you head out for fireworks, and don't ignite fireworks around pets. Aside from sounding scary, exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.
- Splash Safely. Do not leave dogs unsupervised around a pool, as not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear a flotation device on board a boat. Rinse your dog after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset. Also, make sure that your pet does not have access to the concentrated pool chemicals, as they are highly toxic to animals if ingested.
- Beware of "High-Rise Syndrome". During warmer months, many animal hospitals and veterinarians see an increase in injured animals as a result of "High-Rise Syndrome," which occurs when pets fall out of windows and are seriously or fatally injured. Keep all unscreened windows in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.
- Love the Leash. Warm weather can lead to longer walks, and sometimes the summer is the first time pet owners have the opportunity to take their dog outside for extended periods. While this is exciting for both dog and dog owner, it is important that dogs always be kept on leash, with a collar and ID tag to protect them from getting loose and injuring themselves or others.
If your dog or cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance, please contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance. For more information on having a fun, safe summer with your pet, please visit www.aspca.org.