(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on July 21, 2010)
It’s summer time! There are plenty of fun things to do with your furry friends, but there are a few dangers as well. Follow these guidelines to keep your pets safe through the warm weather ahead.
What are the most common dangers?
The most common and deadly danger we see is leaving pets in a car causing heat stroke. Even a few minutes can be fatal for any pet on a warm sunny day. If you plan on leaving your pet in a car when you run errands, consider not taking it along for the ride. As little as ten minutes has proven to be deadly.
On a similar note, pets housed outdoors need ample water and a source of shade. The sun’s heat can cause the same effects on pets unable to find shelter. Rabbits are especially sensitive to heat stroke. A rabbit hutch should always contain shade and a cooling system. To easily accomplish this, place frozen water bottles in the cage. Thin haired dogs often get skin cancers on the exposed skin, and light colored cats can get cancer on their noses and ear tips.
Coming in a close second are burns on pads. The asphalt gets very hot in the dog days of summer. Many dogs and cats will travel along the roads and burn their pads on the hot asphalt. If the asphalt is too warm to the touch of your hand, it’s too hot for their pads as well. Keep them indoors or walk them on cooler surfaces. Dogs can be fitted with booties for walks as well.
What about fleas and ticks?
Fleas and ticks are a nuisance year round, but are even more problematic in the summer months. The adults seen on pets are only about 5% of the total flea population. There are four life stages of a flea, most of which take places in the environment. A flea preventative that is effective at multiple life stages is ideal, but talking to your veterinarian about your unique situation is required to achieve adequate flea control.
Please read the fine print, as many dog products are fatal if used on cats. Fleas can transmit diseases such as tapeworms, so be on the look out for these parasites too.
Ticks are more of a nuisance than fleas, as they can carry more diseases than fleas. In our climate, ticks are a year round problem since there are no real winter freezes to halt tick maturation. Most of the flea preventatives also prevent ticks as well.
If you plan on doing outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, or visiting forested areas, you may want to also look into vaccines to protect your pet from tick diseases such as Lyme disease.
Can I travel with my pet?
Yes, traveling with your pet can be a great experience. If you plan on taking your pet with you on your vacation, there are a few more boxes to check off on the “to do” list.
First, make sure your destination is pet friendly. Find pet friendly accommodations on the web or in specialty books. Pets flying on planes may need health certificates. Check with your airline for requirements. They will also need airline approved crates to fly in.
One word of caution in the hotter months: the cargo area of the plane is not cooled like the cabin is. If you think you will be traveling in a hot area, fly non-stop if you can. This will shorten the overall travel time and avoid the wait that your pet has to endure in the hot cargo holding areas.
If you’re flying to an international destination, check with the USDA on requirements. Many nations have health care requirements that need to be timed months in advance and have quarantine requirements.
For those driving, make sure your pet has a comfortable and safe area in the car. A crate or seatbelt will keep them safe in case of an accident. Many pets do get car sick so ask your veterinarian for suggestions. Frequent stops allow them to stretch their legs and relieve themselves.
Stephanie Oba is a contributing writer and physician for animals in Alhambra. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.