10 tips for summer pet safety

The “dog days of summer” are on their way.

“Every year, beloved pets suffer from heat exhaustion and worse, as unknowing owners leave them in the car,” says Michele Baxter, Cruelty and Rescue Manager of the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV). “Pets don’t have the same cooling capabilities we do, so heat can hurt them faster. But when people know better, they do better, so the more we can get the word out about safety, the more likely we’ll avoid tragedy.”

A dog left in a car in Vacaville, CA died from heat-related stress. The owner was reportedly arrested and charged with animal cruelty.

Here are some tips from HSHV on keeping your furry friend summer safe:

1.    Never, ever leave your pet in the car. Even when the windows are open – even when you’re parked in the shade – even with the car running and A/C on – on an 85⁰ day, the interior of your car can reach 102⁰ in just 10 minutes. And even if it’s only 70⁰ outside, inside your car can be 90⁰, which is too hot when you’re wearing a fur coat!

2.    Trim, don’t shave, your dog – and brush your cat. Dogs need about an inch of fur to protect them from sunburn as well as from overheating. You can also use sunscreen – just be sure it’s specifically made for animals. Brushing cats more during warm weather can help them from overheating.

3.    Remember: Humidity hurts. Animals pant to dehumidify themselves, so regardless of the temperature – when the humidity rises, they have difficulty cooling off. So even when it’s only 70⁰, humidity can make it too hot for our furred friends.

4.    Watch for signs of overheating including excessive panting, drooling, and even the slightest sign of weakness. Know that overweight, elderly, or animals with short snouts (e.g., Pugs and Persian cats) are more susceptible to heat stroke. If you see one of these symptoms, move your pet into shade or A/C immediately, apply wrapped ice packs or run cool (not cold) water on him/her, allow him/her to lick ice cubes, and call a vet immediately.

5.    Keep water and shade accessible. Pets get dehydrated quickly; be sure they plenty of cool, clean water and a spot to go that’s always shady when it’s humid or hot out. Don’t depend on a fan; they don’t work on pets like they do us. And dog houses tend to be hotter, not cooler; use a tarp or big, shady trees instead.

6.    Ease up on the exercise. It’s okay to cut down on the walks when the temperature soars. Also, you can change your exercise time to accommodate the weather (e.g., cooler in the early morning or evening) and carry a water bottle.

7.    Mind the paws. Hot asphalt can burn sensitive paw pads. And dogs sweat mostly through their feet! Wondering if it’s too hot? Put your hand on the pavement for 60 seconds; if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them. Keep them on the grass when walking, and keep them out of the back of your truck as the hot metal burns.

8.    Be careful around pools and lakes. Some dogs are great swimmers – others, not so. Play it safe with a flotation device and remember to rise the chlorine/salt off their fur when you’re done.

9.    Bring them in. We don’t want any dog to have to live a solitary life outside. But if you do have an outdoor-only dog, please consider bringing him/her in out of the heat, ideally, with the windows closed and the air conditioning on!  If your windows are open, be sure the screens are secured – as many cats lean against them and fall out this time of year.

10.  Never leave your pet in the car. It bears repeating, as even a 70⁰ day can lead to fatal heat stroke. Please, don’t let this happen to you or your pet. And if you see a pet left in a hot car, please look for the owner, and call your local police or the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s rescue hotline at (734) 661-3512.