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Summer tips for pet owners

Photograph: iStock

Text: Tarek Abu Sham

Summer. It's the time of year that so many look forward to. But warm weather is not without its downsides. Being informed and taking the proper precautions could be the difference between you and your pet having fun outside and a trip to the emergency vet.

Overheating and heat stroke

Pets can quickly overheat, and this can cause complications such as cardiovascular compromise, stroke, seizures and death. Unfortunately, pets don't have to be outside to overheat: some pets may overheat in the house or a building. And it's incredibly easy for pets of any sort to overheat in a vehicle, so don't leave your pet in a car.

Brachycephalic breeds or short or snub-nosed breeds, such as Persian cats and pugs, are more likely to overheat. These pets may not be able to respire readily to control their body temperatures, with often ineffective panting and longer soft palates that can block the trachea.

Providing plenty of shade can help keep your pet's temperature from becoming elevated. Cold, fresh water should also always be available. "Pupsicles" are a great way to get the family involved in keeping your pet safe: blend pet-safe fruits and freeze or even freeze chicken broth. You can purchase a cooling vest or towels, as well.

Some pets may develop heatstroke, which needs to be treated immediately by a veterinarian. Heatstroke may lead to blood clotting disorders or neurologic conditions, such as seizures.

Burned paws

With warmer temperatures, your pet's paws are more likely to become injured. Concrete, such as sidewalks and similar surfaces, retain heat even after sunset. When your pet goes outside for a break and walks along these surfaces, they can burn their paws.

If your pet needs to go outside, try to stick to the grass and shaded areas. In addition to potential burns, the hotter sidewalks may also increase the likelihood of abrasions or paw sores. If you know you'll be walking on hotter surfaces, consider getting your pet booties to protect their paws.

Sun exposure and injury

Did you know that animals can get sunburned? Light-skinned areas, such as pink noses tend to burn more easily. Areas with less hair, such as ears, are also at a higher risk of getting sunburns. Sunburns can increase the odds of your pet developing skin cancers.


Summertime may bring a higher risk of exposure to external skin parasites, including fleas and ticks. Warmer weather is also usually associated with an increase in mosquitoes, which can irritate skin or transmit heartworms to your dog or other pets.

Each of these external parasites can lead to significant health complications or even be contagious to you. Fleas may cause your pet to become very itchy and could lead to skin infections. Ticks transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and may cause localized skin infections.

Time for swimming?

Some pets absolutely adore swimming. Drowning can be a risk, however, so make sure to watch them closely and consider getting a life vest designed for their shape and size.

Exposure to water can lead to a higher risk of developing ear infections. Discuss ear cleaning plans with your veterinarian to help find the most effective treatment.

Chemicals in pools may irritate the skin, so consider bathing your pet afterwards. Pets playing at the beach may drink salt water, which can cause diarrhoea or vomiting. Certain ponds or lakes may have chemical runoff, toxic, or bacteria or algae that can cause disease, including leptospirosis.

If you're planning to enjoy the summer with your pet, have a game plan to keep them safe. Discuss your plans for the summer with your vet to get recommendations on the best preventative care.

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