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Napolean and Roxy, two German sheppard/husky mix puppies, play in their water bowl on a hot summer's day.

Photo by Pfc. Drew W. Barker

Summer safety a must for our 4 legged friends

16 Jun 2005 | Pfc. Drew W. Barker

The summer season presents a great opportunity for people to spend time with their pets while enjoying the outdoors, but it also creates an environment that is full of potential hazards for our animal companions.

“Protection from heat, parasites, travel safety, and sterilizing your pet are some of the issues that, while important year-round, need extra attention during the summer months,” said Nancy Peterson, a companion animal specialist, on the American Kennel Club’s official Web site, www.akc.org.

Heat related ailments are the main concern for pets during the summer months. Serious incidents of heat stroke and exhaustion are very common for animals during hot and humid weather and can be deadly if not treated immediately, according to Army Capt. Genevieve Vega, branch chief for Veterinarian Services, Camp Lejeune.

Signs of heat stroke and exhaustion include, but are not limited to, body temperatures exceeding 104 degrees, excessive panting, a dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering and vomiting, according to the Web site.

Once symptoms are recognized, cooling the pet down becomes a very pressing need.

There are a few treatment methods that are very effective, including applying ice packs to the groin area, allowing the pet to lick ice chips or drink small amounts of cool water and applying rubbing alcohol to the dog’s pads, according to the AKC.

Keeping your pet well hydrated and ensuring their core body temperature remains at a reasonable level is essential to maintaining the health and comfort of your pet and avoiding heat related illness in the upcoming months, according to Vega.

“When it’s hot out, animals need a lot of water and shade,” said Vega. “Also, to keep them cool and avoid dehydration, try and limit their times of high activity to the morning and evening hours when weather is more permitting.”

It is imperative that pets have a shady spot to rest in if they are to be left outside on a hot summer day, and it should be known that doghouses may not be a very good option, as they tend to trap heat, according to Vega.

The most commonly neglected heat hazard to pets is being left in a parked car, according to Vega.

Temperatures inside a car can rise to over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes, according to the Web site.

Another risk factor for pets during the summer months is found in the seasonal insect population. Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes, which carry heartworm disease, are more prevalent in warmer months, according to the AKC.

Parasite prevention for your pet could be as easy as a few shots or wearing a special collar, according to Vega.

In addition to minimizing risk factors, pet owners must also plan ahead for travel.

Many airlines will not ship animals during summer months due to dangers caused by hot weather. Some will only allow dogs to fly in the early morning or in the evening, according to the AKC.

“When traveling by automobile, ensure that the interior of the vehicle remains cool and schedule for frequent bathroom and water breaks,” said Vega.

When traveling with your pet this summer, it is wise to research veterinary clinics in the area you are visiting so that you are prepared to seek emergency assistance as quickly as possible if necessary, according to the Web site.

By taking preventative measures to protect your pet’s health this summer, pet owners can ensure a fun and safe season of outdoor activity.