CAH’s Summer Safety School
It’s another New England May, which can only mean one thing: summer is either right around the corner, already in full-swing, or another two months out. Regardless of whether the season shows up early or fashionably late this year, we’re taking this chance to talk about some seasonal safety tips for your and your pets.
We’ve done our best to compile advice that will prepare you for any summer situation. Some of it may be old news (hot cars, anyone?), but our hope is that you’ll learn a thing or two along the way. Consider this a final exam before you and your pets have a whole summer of safe, exciting fun ahead of you!
Beat the Heat
Whether you love 90 degree weather or hate it, we’ve surely got some in store. While it’s hardly a secret that dogs and hot cars are a bad combination, a lot of people don’t realize just how dangerous the heat can be.
Heat stroke is a perennial summer concern, and occurs when a dog’s body is warming faster than they can cool off. Be mindful of the temperature if you’re headed outside, and try to schedule walks, play sessions, and any other high-activity plans around the cooler parts of the day. It’s important to know the risk factors as well; elderly and obese dogs, dogs with heavy coats, and brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed breeds like pugs or bulldogs) are more susceptible to heat stroke, and should be monitored accordingly.
It’s not just the air to keep an eye on either, it’s the ground as well! Concrete and asphalt can get hot under direct sunlight, with asphalt often running 50 degrees hotter than the air above. A good rule of thumb (or in this case paw) is to put your own skin in the game to check. If the pavement is too hot for your bare hands or feet, it’s too hot for those sensitive paw pads as well. Grab your pup some protective booties, or save the walk for a cooler time of day.
SPF: Safe, Prepared, Fun!
The sun! You know, that giant ball of fire that sits in the sky and burns us if we stay outside too long? Earth’s a weird place sometimes.
Unfortunately our dogs share the same sky, and they can get sunburns just like us. Exposed areas like bellies and faces tend to be more prone to sunburns, as do dogs with lighter coats or coloration, but it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution. Try to find shade and avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, and if those rays are unavoidable consider protective clothing or dog-specific sunscreen- just be sure it’s labeled for use with animals, since human sunscreens often contain ingredients that are toxic to pets.
Whether you’re jazzed for your summer wardrobe or mourning the loss of sweater weather, your pet’s not giving it much thought. Dogs tend to be pretty good at adapting to the seasons and, while they may benefit from a slight helping hand, a gentle touch is key.
While a dog’s coat can seem like a lot to lug around in summer, many breed’s coats help to insulate their bodies against hot air. Cutting a dog’s coat too short or shaving them down can result in difficulty regulating body temperature, and can also leave them more exposed to those nasty doggy sunburns we mentioned above. Dogs tend to shed in accordance with the seasons and temperature, so oftentimes a good brush will help more than a haircut. If you do think your dog would benefit from an actual summer cut, be sure to consult with a professional groomer (cough cough) to get the job done right!
The Lowdown on Lawns
A nicely-maintained lawn can be the perfect spot for a summer cookout or a rousing game of fetch, but it can also play host to a handful of unseen dangers. Many of the products used to get your lawn looking good can be toxic if ingested by pets, such as fertilizers containing bone or blood meal, mulches derived from cocoa beans, and the obvious culprits like insecticides and herbicides. If you’ve treated your lawn or garden be sure to keep your pets from sniffing or rolling around in the affected areas, and if you use a landscaping service alert them to any pets on the property.
It’s not just chemicals to watch out for either, since many of the same plants that make for a delightful spring or summer garden can also be harmful to curious pets. Flowers such as lilies, tulips, azaleas, and even daffodils can be toxic, as can certain vegetables like onions, chives, and unripe tomatoes. If you’ve got a garden on your property it may be a good idea to put a fence around it, for your pets’ sake and plants’ sake alike!
Lifeguard on Duty
While some dogs love swimming and others won’t touch water with a ten foot stick, beaches and pools can be a summer staple for dogs of all shapes and sizes. If you plan to bring your dog around water remember that certain breeds are more suited for swimming than others (retrievers and water dogs can swim laps around boxy bulldogs), and consider the value of a doggy life-vest. If you’ve got a pool on your property, keep it covered when it’s not in use!
Beaches introduce a few more unknowns, but a bit of preparation is all it takes to make your day at the beach a day at the beach. If you plan to let your dog off leash be sure they have a good recall, and bring plenty of fresh drinking water so they don’t try to chug the salty ocean surf. Be mindful of others as well; on a nice day there are likely to be plenty of other dogs and people, and all the new sights, sounds, and smells can make even a well-behaved dog forget their manners a bit.
Endless Summer (Safety)
We could go on forever about storm planning or tick prevention or heat stroke, but you’re probably sick of reading and ready to enjoy that summer sun, so we’ll cut ourselves off here. Fortunately school’s in session all year around, so if you still have unanswered questions or want to learn more about any of the topics we glossed over above, don’t be a stranger! We want this to be your pet’s best, safest summer ever, and we’re here to help that happen however we can. Now toss those notebooks away, enjoy that warm air, and have a great summer!
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