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Summer Safety


Mark Hale, DVM

1661 E. Mt. Gilead Road

Bolivar, Missouri  65613





            Summer brings an increase in all kinds of outdoor activities such as camping trips, and barbeques.  These kinds of activities can be lots of fun for both us and our pets. However, certain health hazards are increased at this time of year. Following are some tips concerning some common summer precautions for your pet.


Water and Food

            Your pet's water requirements increase substantially as temperature and their activity level increases. Readily available fresh clean water is very important. Overweight or older pets or those that exercise have increased water requirements.  Outdoor water bowls should be changed and cleaned often to prevent mosquitoes from hatching in them. Pets can be encouraged to drink by adding low sodium chicken or beef broth to their water if needed. When traveling, frozen water (pet popsicles) will let your pet have access to water, yet not spill easily. A small decrease in appetite is normal with warm weather, but a significant or prolonged drop in appetite should be cause for concern. Leftover food should not be left outdoors as it can attract other animals such as skunks that may carry serious diseases.



            All of us know not to leave pets in the car on hot days. But what is considered too hot?  On an 85 degree day with the window cracked open, temperatures can reach 102 within 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, it can reach deadly temperatures of over 120 degrees. Higher humidity also increases the danger. Dogs cool themselves by panting, so breeds with a short nose or small trachea, or dogs with heart problems, are at increased risk of heat related problems. Obesity and dark or thick hair also increases risk. Pets tied outside are also susceptible. If they become tangled or cannot reach their water or shade they can overheat quickly. Be sure to secure water bowls so they cannot be tipped over and remove obstacles that could tangle your pets' tie cable.

            Signs of heatstroke include drooling, excessive panting, vomiting or diarrhea, muscle tremors, and listlessness. More advanced signs can include weakness, staggering gait, grayish gums, collapse, and seizures. I have witnessed body temperatures as high as 109.5 degrees. These high temperatures can cause heart arrhythmias, clotting problems, and electrolyte imbalances. Death due to kidney failure is not uncommon days or even weeks after the incident.  If you find your pet suffering from heat stroke start cooling it down SLOWLY with water and seek veterinary attention.

Ticks and Fleas

            Fleas and ticks reproduce at incredible rates in warm humid weather. For every flea found on your pet there are hundreds more in various stages of growth in the environment. Flea allergy dermatitis and tapeworms are two of the most common ailments caused by fleas. Once a flea infestation is established it can be very frustrating and costly to eliminate. Foggers that kill adults and larvae are effective for environmental decontamination if used correctly. Continuous topical treatment of your pet is the best safeguard against fleas. Frontline Plus® is a very effective and safe product that I recommend and use on my pets.  (Do not be fooled by imitations or products that claim to be "just as good as" Frontline). In this area, ticks commonly cause life-threatening diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Cytauzoanosis, and Tick Paralysis. Young puppies and kittens can become very anemic from severe infestations. Limiting access to overgrown areas can help reduce exposure to ticks. Preventic Plus collars® (dogs only) and Frontline Plus ® (dogs or cats) are the best products for tick control on your pet. With any insecticide, be sure to read and follow the specific instructions for that product. Products labeled for dogs only can be toxic or even lethal to cats.


Other Hazards

            Pets should always be supervised around pools or at the lake. While some dogs can swim exceptionally well, others may panic or may not be able to get out of the water. Life preservers are available if your pet will be around water, especially if it goes in the boat with you.

            Pets should always be restrained when riding in a vehicle. Some dogs may ride in the back of pickups unrestrained for years, then suddenly jump or fall out. These pets usually have serious injuries or die as a result of the fall.

            Fourth of July fireworks are another summer hazard. Frightened pets may run away or injure themselves trying to get away from these loud noises. Appropriate sedatives may be indicated for some pets if avoidance is not possible. Proper identification tags, rabies tags, and microchips can help to find the owners of lost pets. Please be sure to have your identification on your pet in case it becomes lost or stolen.


Have a fun and safe summer with your pet!