(Family Features) – Enjoying the great outdoors is a common pastime for many when temperatures warm, and that includes those with furry companions. However, warmer weather also comes with a variety of hazards to those four-legged friends.
To help keep your pets safe and enjoy all the season has to offer, consider these tips from the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals, which has more than 1,000 locations across North America and cared for more than 4 million pets last year.
Leaving pets in the yard for extended periods without access to shade or water on hot days, vigorous exercise or leaving them in vehicles even with windows rolled down can lead to heat stroke, a term commonly used for hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature. Pets suffering from heat stroke (temperature higher than 106 F) can have elevated breathing rates, dry or sticky gums, abnormal gum color, bruising in the gums, may appear lethargic or disoriented and can have seizures. Safe, controlled reduction of body temperature is an immediate priority. Cool water may be poured over the head, stomach, armpits and feet, or cool cloths may be applied to these areas and continually replaced.
Allergies are common in both dogs and cats, and warmer weather brings out fleas and ticks that can cause allergic reactions. Bites may cause intense itching, leading pets to scratch or chew on themselves, potentially causing hair loss. An effective, year-round flea and tick preventative regimen is key to keeping dogs and cats pest free and limiting allergic reactions. In cases of severe itching, antihistamines or corticosteroids (steroids) may be prescribed to provide immediate relief.
Cookouts may mean barbecue chicken, ribs, steak, corn on the cob and fresh fruit like watermelon. Be wary of bones, which are not digestible and can pose a choking hazard, cause intestinal blockage or break into shards and cause irritations or infections. Similarly, corn cobs are not digestible and can get stuck in the stomach or intestinal tract, causing an obstruction. Watermelon rind and seeds can also block the GI tract, so be sure to remove the rind and seeds.
Warm weather means festivals and parties. However, these outdoor gatherings often include items that are dangerous to pets:
• Glow sticks contain an oily liquid called dibutyl phthalate (DBP). While non-toxic in small amounts, DBP can cause gagging, drooling and irritation of the eyes, mouth and skin if pets bite glow sticks. If your pet chews a glow stick, offer water or a treat to tame the bitter taste. Turn off the lights and wash any glowing areas.
• Citronella candles work well as a deterrent for flying insects but open flames can burn whiskers and noses. The fumes may also cause breathing issues when inhaled and consuming the wax can cause GI and nervous system issues.
• Popped or non-inflated balloons can pose choking risks. String for anchoring them can also cause intestinal issues if swallowed and pets could become entangled in the string, posing tripping and strangulation risks.
While cats naturally shy away from water, both dogs and cats can fall into swimming pools accidentally. Dogs can sometimes struggle with getting out of the water even if they’re capable swimmers, so be sure to teach them to navigate the swim-out area and keep an eye on pets in the water – even good swimmers can tire of treading water and drown.
Find more tips to safely enjoy the warmer months with your furry friends at VCAHospitals.com.