Heat and other hazards

THE PET CONNECTION
By Gina Spadafori
Pet Columnist

Heat Hazards

The long days of summer are a great time to have — or be — a pet. But this glorious season for outdoor activities is not without its hazards. Knowing what to look out for is half the battle.

The hazards of summer include:

  • Heat risks. Cats have enough sense to nap on warm afternoons, but dogs do not. If you let them, they’ll go where you do, even if it’s too hot. Dogs are not good at keeping themselves cool, and they rely on us to keep them out of trouble.
    The fastest way to get your dog into trouble is to leave him in the car. Even a few minutes in a car on a warm day can kill a dog, so it’s best never to take a chance.
    Limit exercise to the coolest part of the day, no matter how happy your dog is to participate when it’s warmer. Even in the cooler part of the day, watch for signs of trouble: Glassy eyes and frantic panting indicate a dog who needs help.
    Remember that older, obese or snort-nosed dogs are less heat-tolerant, and that all dogs need constant access to shade and an endless supply of cool, clean water.

  • Gardening risks. Protect your pets from poisonous plants, troublesome garden materials or yard chemicals. Check with the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA.org/APCC) to be sure your plants are pet-safe, and put any ones that aren’t on the other side of a fence from your animals. Popular mulches made from cocoa hulls can be appealing to dogs, but some of these products have been shown to be hazardous. Again, if you use them, use them in areas off-limits to your pets.
    Even the compost pile can be a problem, since some dogs learn the piles are a great source of food and will dig through to eat half-rotted materials. That’s a habit that could earn your pet a trip to the veterinarian, so keep the compost pile off-limits, too.
    Finally, be sure to use any pesticides or fertilizers according to label directions, and let lawn chemicals dry before allowing your pet access to the yard. Snail and rodent bait can kill pets, so do not use it in areas where animals have access.

  • Poison risks. In addition to garden chemicals, other common products can present a grave risk to pets.Automotive coolant is deadly even in small amounts, so be sure to clean up all fluids completely and store all products carefully. Cleaners, solvents, paints, cleaners and pool supplies also need to be handled and stored properly.

  • Escape risks. With many children home from school and coming in and out of the house with friends, pets have more opportunity to slip out unnoticed and be lost.
    The best way to deal with this risk is through prevention. Check your yard for loose or missing boards, and install self-closing mechanisms on all gates. Since leaving doors open seems a part of childhood, you may have difficulty getting help from the kids, but it’s certainly worth trying to get them to keep doors closed.
    A collar and ID tag are always a good preventive measure and will help get your pet home if he’s lost.

  • Field risks. If your hiking takes you through open fields or wooded areas, be sure to check your dog afterward forfoxtails and ticks. The spiky seed carrier of dried grasses, a foxtail will burrow deep into the ears or flesh of an animal, and it will need to be removed by a veterinarian if it gets in a place your pet can’t reach or is left to fester.

As for ticks, use tweezers or a tick-remover — not your hands — to get at these pests, pulling away from the tick head with strong, steady pressure. Dispose of the pest without touching it, and keep an eye on the spot for a few days to make sure no infection develops.

With a little bit of awareness, you and your pet will have nothing but enjoyment this summer.

A careful Fourth
Take the hazards of summer and add fireworks, and you have the Fourth of July, a scary and dangerous holiday for many pets.

If your pet finds fireworks terrifying, talk to your veterinarian now about tranquilizers that will help as the holiday gets closer. Many pet lovers also believe the homeopathic product Rescue Remedy, available in health-food stores, helps to calm a nervous pet.

Be sure your pets are secure when the noise begins — a quiet space indoors is ideal — because scared pets are more likely to escape the house or yard and be hit by cars or lost forever. Prepare for the worst by making sure your pets have collars and tags, and that you know where to go for holiday veterinary care.