Summer is here and with it all of the sun and fun that we wait all year for. Vacations, long days at the parks, and family reunions are on most of our summer bucket lists. But don’t forget about your furry friends and take preventative steps to keep summer safe for pets.
When traveling, plan out pet-friendly pit stops. Instead of stopping for food, consider going to a drive-through then visit a rest stop with a pet-friendly area, so that you and your dog can relax together. Remember: Even if the windows are open, the “greenhouse effect” means the interior of the car can surpass 120 degrees very quickly.
For dogs and cats that become anxious in the car, your veterinarian can prescribe calming medication. Always do a “trial run” with any new medication before your trip so you can consider different options if the medication doesn’t work as planned. You may need, for example, a probiotic for dogs to help their immune system while traveling and coming across so many new bacteria and such. When traveling with cats, getting a larger carrier, or “pet tube” style carrier that attaches to the back seat will help your cat feel secure and also leave room for a small litterbox.
While it may look cute to have your dog’s ears flapping in the wind with his head out the window, trauma to the ears or eyes are common. Dogs can get corneal ulcers, which are scratches to the eye, which can permanently affect vision. There are many options for dog-seatbelts that are inexpensive, comfortable, and will keep Fido’s head safely inside.
When hiking, keep in mind that dogs and cats do not sweat, instead removing heat from their bodies through their lungs. Panting is often a sign that they are trying to cool down. Humans can withstand hotter temperatures than dogs, and a loyal dog will want to stay with us to enjoy the fun, often to his own detriment. Dogs should only be out in the heat if there is shade and plenty of access to water. Some dogs, especially short-muzzled, “brachycephalic” dogs can develop heat stroke on short walks once the temperature is over 70 degrees. Another consideration is dogs with a condition called Laryngeal Paralysis. This is more common in large breed dogs, especially Labradors. This is a condition where the voice box (larynx) doesn’t open when breathing in or close when breathing out. On warm days when dogs are panting more, the larynx can get swollen and aggravate this condition, making it difficult for these dogs to breath. This condition can sometimes be treated with surgery. For dogs with Laryngeal Paralysis or brachycephalic dogs, keeping them comfortable in an air-conditioned home may be the safest option.
Whether out in a park or walking around town, monitor your dog for signs of heat distress. Tongues protruding while panting rapidly may be a life-threatening emergency. Immediately get your dog out of the heat and into a shady spot or air-conditioned space. Then scoop cool, not cold, water over their head and soak a towel with cool water and cover your dog with it. If your dog continues to pant heavily with tongue out, it should be considered an emergency and veterinary care should be sought immediately at your veterinarian or the closest 24-hour pet emergency center.
Summertime fun and travel with our pets make great memories (and pictures!). Some extra planning and regular visits to your vet for checkups and advice go a long way to keeping your pets happy and healthy.
Peter Romano is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and owner of Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital. Find out more about Dr. Romano and his team at www.sleepyhollowanimalhospital.com.