There are five main categories of summertime dangers for companion animals:
Hazard #1: Heat
Your pet can overheat in a hurry. Dogs and cats can't regulate their body heat as efficiently as humans can, because most of their sweat glands are confined to the pads of their feet. Panting is your pet's primary means of regulating body temperature. Flat-faced pets can't pant as effectively as breeds with longer noses, so they have even less ability to cool their bodies down.
In addition to overheating, your pet can also become dehydrated very rapidly. Make sure your pet has a constant source of fresh, clean drinking water.
If your pet will be outside in the heat for any period, she should have access to a completely shaded area and plenty of cool drinking water. Make sure your dog or cat is indoors when the temp climbs to 90oF (32 oC) or above.
If you or your family spends time in the yard on summer days or evenings, and your dog (or adventurous kitty) doesn't like being stuck indoors, you can turn on the hose or sprinkler to cool off your pet. You can also fill a children's small plastic wading pool with water and encourage your pet to sit or lie in it to cool off.
Exercise your dog either in the early morning or evening when the temperature is coolest. Try to stay in the shade during
daylight hours, and no matter the time of day, don't overdo outdoor exercise or play sessions. Even on an overcast day or in the evening, a long period of physical exertion in hot weather can cause heatstroke in your dog.
Don't allow your dog or cat to stand, walk or rest on hot outdoor surfaces like sidewalks or parking lots. Your dog's or kitty's paws, belly or hindquarters can sustain burns from hot concrete. And remember your pet is close to the ground and the ground is much hotter than the air. Just walking on hot pavement can cause him to overheat.
Never under any circumstances leave your pet in a parked vehicle on a hot day. Your car or truck cab can become a furnace very quickly, even with the windows open, and can cause a fatal case of heatstroke in your beloved pet. Aside from the risk of serious illness or death, leaving pets unattended in vehicles in hot weather is illegal in many states.
Hazard #2: Water
Many dog owners mistakenly believe their pet was born knowing how to swim – especially if it's a sporting or hunting breed. While some dogs do know instinctively how to move in water the first time they go in, most dogs get the hang of swimming only with repeated exposure to a pool, pond, lake, etc.
You should introduce your dog gradually to water, and either go in with her the first few outings, or be prepared to jump in to either encourage her or help her safely exit the water.
If you're going out on a boat with your dog, I recommend she have her own flotation equipment. Even dogs who are strong swimmers can get hurt in the water or worn out from exertion. A flotation device will keep her in view until you or someone else can get her to safety. If your dog doesn't consistently respond when you call her, I suggest you attach a length of rope to her flotation device so you can pull her in if you need to.
Hazard #3: Parties
Summertime is when many people host backyard pool parties and barbeques. There are holiday celebrations at the start and end of the season and of course July 4th in the U.S. The warmer months are also the time for block parties, picnics, family gatherings, and outdoor community events.
As much fun as the festivities are for the two-legged members of your family, it's best to keep pets a safe distance from celebrations.
Take care not to lose a pet out a door or window left open during a party at your home. Keep dogs and kitties away from people food, beverages, garbage, and decorations.
Don't leave your pet alone with unfamiliar children or even an irresponsible adult party guest or one who's had too much to drink.
Unless your dog is very well trained on a lead, I don't recommend bringing him to outdoor community events. Most pups are over-stimulated by all the new sights, sounds and especially the smells of a large outdoor gathering and neither of you will have much fun if he's yanking at his leash the whole time while you try to calm and control him.
Also keep in mind many dogs and cats are terrified of fireworks displays, so it's best to leave your pet safely at home on the 4th of July. If neighbors are setting off their own backyard displays, keep your pet home since the fireworks can cause a serious injury or be toxic to a curious dog or cat.
Hazard #4: Poisons
Many commonly used fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are loaded with chemicals that can prove toxic to pets. Same goes for rodent bait. Don't allow your dog or cat access to areas of your garden, lawn, house or outbuildings where chemicals have been used. Take the same precautions when walking your dog. Store all chemicals out of reach of your pet.
Remember to keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of your pet's reach as well.
If you'll be doing any planting to brighten up your home or yard, before you stock up on seeds or visit your local nursery, make sure you know which plants, flowers and greenery are toxic to your pet if ingested.
Call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately if you suspect your dog or cat has swallowed a poisonous substance.
Hazard #5: Pests
Depending on where you live and your dog's or cat's lifestyle, you'll need to prepare to manage summertime pet pests like fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.
In most cases, there are safe, effective ways to prevent or eradicate pest infestations that don't involve dosing your pet with toxic chemicals.
For daily flea, tick and mosquito management, I recommend the Natural Flea and Tick Defense and Tick Stick. This product is a pest repellent system I recently introduced which includes an all-natural spray and a special tick removal tool which allows you to safely extricate the little blood suckers if they manage to attach to your pet.
If you live in an area where Lyme disease is endemic, be sure to read my recent article on the spread of this disease. Also make sure to read the latest information on heartworm drug resistance and the best way to keep your pet free of this disease.