Pet Health Summer Safety Tips

With summer fun comes summer-related hazards for our pets, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.

“Summer is a time for all to enjoy, and by following these precautions, you and your pet will be able to enjoy it safely and to the fullest,” said Susan Nelson, clinical professor at the Veterinary Health Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Nelson suggests pet owners begin flea, tick and heartworm preventive care now if they haven’t already, before numbers start increasing. Ticks bring many tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Fleas can cause flea bite anemia, flea allergy dermatitis, plague, tapeworms and Bartonella henslae, which is the cause of cat scratch fever in people. Mosquitoes are behind heartworm disease for both dogs and cats, which is often fatal if left untreated.

Nelson recommends year-round protection against all of these parasites. There are many choices available for both dogs and cats. Many of the heartworm preventives deworm against several intestinal parasites as well, which are also more prevalent during warmer weather.

“Make sure to treat all pets in the household for fleas and ticks, even if they don’t go outdoors, as these pets are often a source of a persistent infestation and a reason for failure to rid them from your environment,” Nelson said. “If you are not sure which product to use, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.”

In addition to flea, tick and heartworm prevention, Nelson offers the following recommendations so that people and their pets can safely enjoy all the fun that summer offers.

• Remember to reintroduce your dog slowly to exercise if they have been less active over the past months or they may succumb to injury, Nelson said. In addition, look for signs of heat stress, including heavy panting, weakness, thick ropey saliva, dark red gums and collapse.

• Before going to a dog park, make sure dogs are current on recommended vaccinations and review dog park etiquette. Be sure to watch your dog closely when interacting with other dogs so that play does not become too rough.

• Protect your dog’s eyes from injury by not allowing them to stick out their heads when you’re driving. Keep them buckled up or secure in a crate to help avoid injury if there is an accident and to keep them from getting underfoot of the driver. Avoid having them ride in the bed of a truck so they do not jump out or get ejected in the case of an accident.

• Never leave your pet confined to the car when temperatures start to rise, as heat stroke is too often a fatal consequence. Even temperatures in the 80s can lead to fatalities.

• Hot weather also means hot pavement. Dogs can experience severe burns to the pads of their feet when walking on hot cement or asphalt pavements.

• Running on rocky ground or other rough surfaces, such as cement, also can be hard on tender feet that aren’t used to being on these surfaces. The outer pad covering can be worn off, leading to exposure and trauma of the tender surfaces below, Nelson said. She recommends short amounts of time at first on these surfaces until the pads toughen or have your pet wear protective booties. Products can be applied to the pads to help them toughen up.

  • Pools should be properly gated to avoid accidental drownings. If dogs go boating with you, make sure they wear life jackets if they cannot swim or if you will be far from shore. Make sure your dog is vaccinated against Leptospirosis, a potentially deadly disease caused by a type of bacteria often found in lakes, ponds and standing water. If you take your dog fishing with you, keep bated and unbaited hooks and lures out of reach. Dogs have been known to swallow them or get them stuck in a lip, which are both situations that often end with a trip to the veterinarian.
  • Many summer plants are toxic to your pets, including azaleas and rhododendrons. All parts of lilies, including the pollen, are toxic to cats. Keep herbicides, fertilizers and insecticides out of reach from pets and strictly follow all instructions for use. Some mulches contain parts of the cocoa bean, which can be toxic to dogs if ingested.• Pets also can have allergies peak during this season, which can lead to itchy skin, sneezing and watery eyes. Talk to your veterinarian about products that can help your pet combat seasonal allergies, Nelson said.

    • Grass also produces grass seeds, or awns, which often get caught up in the dog’s coat, ear canals or between the toes, and can migrate a great distance in the body and cause serious infections. Be sure to check your dog’s body and feet daily for these annoying, and possibly deadly, pieces of plant material.

    • Pets can be bitten and react to chigger bites just like humans. These pesky mites live in the grass, and their prevalence increases as temperatures and humidity levels rise. Their bites can cause inflammation and skin infections in both dogs and cats, Nelson said.

    • Make sure pets are properly identified with a tag, collar and microchip to ensure, if lost, they will be returned to you. Even if your pet is kept indoors or is not prone to wandering, proper identification is always a good idea.

    • Make sure your pet always has access to fresh water and shade this time of year. Food should be changed out at least twice daily, especially if left outside, because it will spoil more quickly and attract flies and other insects. Weak, debilitated animals should not be left outside, as wounds and soiling of the skin with urine and feces can lead to maggot infestations. Be aware that very young and old animals cannot tolerate extreme temperatures very well, so special care should be taken with them during periods of higher temperatures.