Here are 20 ways to protect your pet during the warmer months.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in dogs and the second most common in cats. Even though fur provides some protection from the sun, you should apply a pet sunblock every 3 to 4 hours to the least-hair-covered spots: bellies on dogs (especially ones who like to lie on their backs) and ears and around eyes on cats, which are also areas where malignant tumors are likely to show up. (No need to apply sunscreen directly on fur.) Use products made specifically for pets, such as Epi-Pet Sun Protector Sunscreen ($18; epi-pet.com), which is safe for dogs—ingredients such as zinc oxide can be toxic to pets.
While it may seem logical to cut your pet’s coat short, resist the urge. “If hair—even long hair—is brushed and not matted, it provides better circulation and helps regulate body temperature,” says Rene Carlson, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. (Check out these three tips for grooming pets at home.)
If your pet does get burned, apply a thin layer of pure aloe vera twice daily to soothe the irritated area. (Check the brand with your vet first, for pet safety.)
Don’t walk your dog during the day’s highest heat and humidity, which is usually between 1 and 4 PM. This is especially important for dogs with short snouts, such as bulldogs, who can’t pant as efficiently in humid weather due to their narrowed nostrils and windpipes. (Follow these tips for safer hiking with your dog.)
Even if windows are cracked, the interior temp can rise by 19°F in as little as 7 minutes. On a hot day, this can be deadly. (Check out this simple guide to driving with dogs.)
If your dog shows signs of heat stress—heavy panting, dry or bright red gums, thick drool, vomiting, diarrhea, or wobbly legs—don’t place her in ice cold water, which can put her into shock. Instead, move her to a cool place, drape a damp towel over her body, rewet the cloth frequently, and get her to the vet as soon as you possibly can. A dog’s normal temperature is between 100° and 103°F, so once she hits 104°F, she’s in dangerous territory (106°F or higher can be fatal).
Turn on the AC in your home, especially if you’ll be out of the house for several hours. If it’s too warm for you, it’s too warm for your pet.
Have your dog wear a life vest in a bright color in any body of water to help her stay afloat and ensure that she can be seen by swimmers and boaters. Let her get used to wearing it in your yard first.
If a dog gets in trouble in one of these in the ocean, whether while swimming or fetching a ball, she can be swept out to sea in minutes. The same goes for rivers: You need to watch out for currents, even if they’re not readily visible, as your dog can be easily carried downstream.
If your dog steps in a sinkhole, she may panic and need you to help her swim to where she can touch ground again. And avoid lakes and ponds with blue-green algae, signified by scummy water and a foul odor. Algae can produce a toxin that may cause severe sickness or seizures quickly if your pet ingests the water, by either drinking from the lake or licking tainted fur. (If your dog does get sick, use these 9 natural remedies vets use on their own pets.)
Never leave your dog unsupervised near an uncovered pool.
Teach her how to get out of the pool by using the stairs with her 5 to 10 times in a row. This will help her learn where the stairs are, whether she’s swimming or accidentally falls in and needs to climb out. In the deep end, consider putting in a pool ramp, such as the Gamma Skamper Ramp ($60 to $100; amazon.com), to reduce risk of drowning.
Hookworms and heartworms are more prevalent during the summer and can infect your pet through the pads of his feet. Ask your vet for a prescription for Heartgard Plus or Interceptor Flavor Tabs, which will help keep parasites at bay. (Keep your pet pest-free with these tips.)
Check with your veterinarian to find safe repellents for your pet. One option is all-natural Heavenly Organic Ecoshield ($10; animalsensepetproducts.com). Its botanical blend of plant and essential oils repels fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes. (Try planting these 8 natural mosquito repellents.)
Dogs seem to love to lap up or steal charcoal briquettes from the grill, and the briquettes can easily get stuck in the stomach, causing vomiting and requiring surgery.
Barbecue scraps and fatty leftovers can give your pup pancreatitis, causing severe abdominal pain or death. Corn on the cob and peach pits are also a huge no-no because they can lodge in a dog’s intestines.
These common backyard shrubs can be toxic for dogs and cats if ingested, resulting in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, or an abnormal heart rate. (Never ignore these symptoms in your pet.)
Daylilies and Asiatic, Easter, or Stargazer lilies and their pollen can cause acute kidney failure in cats. Ingestion of as little as two to three leaves can be fatal, so remove these plants from your yard if you let your cat out.
Rose and garden plant food containing insecticides can contain potentially fatal compounds. If your dog tries to eat a bag of it (or soil that’s been treated with it), he could suffer diarrhea, profuse vomiting, shock, seizures, and even death. (Try composting, which is better for your plants and your pet.)
A threat to curious dogs that might try to eat them, fireworks are made with chemicals like potassium nitrate and parts (like a fuse) that could get stuck in the stomach. If eaten, fireworks can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seizures, and shallow breathing. Keep yours out of reach, and clear your yard of debris after you set off your display.