Summer Doggie Dos to Keep Your Pet Healthy
“Dog Days” is an ancient Roman expression for the end of summer — which is kind of ironic because it’s often the most hazardous time for our furry friends. Here are some tips on how to keep your pet healthy and happy this summer, whether you’re just hanging around town or vacationing with your pet in tow.
How to Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer
To help dog owners stay one step ahead of potential problems both at home and on the road, the ASPCA publishes a tip sheet of obvious and not-so-obvious steps to ensure your dog’s safety. Some top tips are:
- Keep your dog hydrated.
- Avoid hot asphalt.
- Don’t leave pets in the car.
- Stay away from pesticides and areas treated with them.
- Trim longer hair, but never shave your dog.
- Wash your dog after a swim in salt water or pool water.
- Don’t let Fido drink from the pool.
- Have your dog tested for heartworm.
For the general needs of your pet’s health and comfort, there are some very reasonably priced products out there. Be sure to carry a collapsible pet water bowl around on summer days, and these are available at any pet store or through online retailers. If it’s tough to beat the heat where you live, there are two kinds of pet beds to try. One is made of absorbent beads that hold water, taking advantage of the cooling properties of water when your dog lies down on it (e.g. the “Self-Cooling Pet Pad”). Furry dogs especially seem to enjoy this product; the same goes for the Coolaroo elevated pet bed, which is designed to elevate your dog off the ground and get some air circulation underneath to prevent your dog from overheating.
Protect Your Pet from Insects
Because insects are so active in summertime, there’s an especially high risk of insect-borne diseases and parasites. One of the most common conditions associated with mosquito bites is heartworm. The American Heartworm Society warns that an infection can have many hazardous effects, and treating it can be complicated and expensive. The best move is prevention, including chewable tablets that can be supplied by a veterinarian or bought over the counter.
Ticks are also plentiful in the summertime, hiding in wooded, damp or grassy areas and ready to latch onto our unsuspecting pets. They can carry such diseases as Lyme, tick-borne fever and Rocky Mountain spotted fever — conditions that can be fatal if left untreated.
Always check your pooch’s fur carefully after a romp in the woods or the fields, and especially after that spontaneous dip in a swamp. If a tick gets its head under a dog’s skin, try loosening it first with alcohol before slowly prying it out with tweezers. Then kill the tick with alcohol before flushing it down the toilet, or else that bugger might just crawl back out again.
Veterinarians and pet supply dealers have different types of repellants, but since the ASPCA recommends avoiding contact with insecticides, pet owners might want to consider natural alternatives. For instance, some try citronella bug repellants designed for children. One old-school home remedy is to use eucalyptus oil, available at drugstores and health food stores. However it can be too harsh to apply directly to the skin, some people soak a piece of string in the oil, then wrap it with a handkerchief, tied around rover’s neck like a fashionable bandanna.
Prep Your Pet For Vacation
In addition to protecting your pet from fleas and ticks, you also need to research any vacation destinations you’ll be bringing your pet to this summer, advises Charlotte Reed, nationally-known pet expert and author of Miss Fido Manners. These unfamiliar environments can be chock-full of unexpected hazards.
For instance, Wisconsin, which is a popular summer destination for Midwesterners, has the highest tick presence of anywhere in the country along with the highest incidence of tick-borne diseases, according to Reed.
“In Florida, there’s giardia of epidemic proportions, a protozoa that your dog can ingest and even pass on to you,” explains Reed. “So if Florida is your destination, be especially vigilant about puddles of standing water. Don’t let your dog drink it. And if you both develop diarrhea, then maybe that’s a sign that you’ve both got giardia.”
While making your itinerary, Reed suggests Googling pet hazards for your intended destination and have a look at advisories from local health departments. She also issues a reminder about hotel and motel rooms: “Check the bedbug resources. If you’re bringing along a doggie crate or airline kennel, the bugs can crawl right inside and even come home with you!”
With a little awareness, prevention and some easy accessorizing, it’s possible for those scorching end-of-summer days and vacation destinations to be pleasant for the four-legged members of your family.