Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Pet Comfortable and Safe this Summer

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Lane Russell's picture

Pets in Cambridge have a lot to deal with when it comes to the weather. From this past winter’s record-breaking snowfall to this summer’s varying temperatures and conditions, pet owners have been put to the test in one very important task: keeping their pets comfortable and safe. 

For many, summer is a time of relaxation and fun, but pet owners still need to be aware of the dangers warmer weather can pose for animals. 

“The first warm days we encounter are often the most dangerous, as animals have not acclimated to the warmer temperatures yet,” said Dr. Adam Parker of Porter Square Veterinarian.  

Pets, just like humans, are susceptible to heat stroke, sunburns, and dehydration. 

“A good rule of thumb is if you are uncomfortable, your pet is probably uncomfortable too,” said Jennifer Brais of Cambridge Public Health Department on CCTV’s series “Tails of the City.”

If your pet is outside in hot weather, make sure they have access to shade and water. As an overall precaution, Brais suggested keeping your pet indoors as much as possible. “Pets like air conditioning just like we do,” she said.

When indoors, pets should always have water available, as well as ice cubes in their water if the weather is particularly warm, suggested Parker.   

When outdoors, the sun can be a concern for thin-coated dogs, especially if they have pink or white skin.  Parker suggested purchasing a pet-friendly sunscreen to protect pets from burning. 

Parker also suggested that while many people trim their pets fur in the summer, “their coat theoretically provides insulation to keep them cooler in the summer … It is also a protective barrier against sunburns.” 

Some breeds are more prone to summer troubles than are others. Brachyephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, boxers, pugs, Boston terriers, and Persian cats have more difficulty dissipating heat due to their structure and its associated breathing problems.

Pet owners should also be wary of fleas, ticks and heartworm (a disease spread by mosquitos).  “People can consult their veterinarian regarding flea, tick, and heartworm prevention,” said Parker. 

Parker suggested not leaving pets unattended outside. Cats can suffer trauma from cars or from fighting with other animals, as well as put themselves at risk for diseases like feline leukemia or feline AIDS. Dogs should not be left free to roam, and are in danger even when tethered as they can become over heated or get tangled. 

“I always recommend keeping cats indoors or on a harness when outside and dogs should always be supervised when outside,” he said. 

To know if a pet is uncomfortable, pet owners can look for panting, lethargy, and redness around the eyes. In more serious cases, vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness, seizures, or collapsing are all signs of heat exhaustion and the pet should be immediately brought to a veterinarian. 

Perhaps one of the most obvious concerns for pets in warm weather is leaving them in the car. Illegal in 16 states, leaving a pet unattended in a car puts them at serious risk. A car’s interior can reach over 120 degrees in just a few minutes. 

“If you’re taking your dog on a car trip, they need to be with you or someone who can let them stay cool outside the car whenever it is parked,” Parker said. 

One final concern, Parker notes, to be especially mindful of as the holiday weekend approaches is that pet owners should avoid including their pets in cookouts. While the socialization is fun, the various foods and bones (specifically chicken bones) can be dangerous for pets.  

Pets want to enjoy this summer just as much as humans, so make sure to take special steps and precautions to ensure their comfort, safety and fun.