Summer Pet Care Tips

From the 4th of July to Labor Day, most of us are likely to indulge in the sunny, fun days of summer. Summer weather, vacation travel, family time, and outdoor activities often affect your cat and dog. Here are some tips from the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association to help keep your pet safe and healthy during the summer months while you enjoy the sun.

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Do dogs and cats get sunburn?
Some dogs get sunburn. Just like fair-skinned people, white haired dogs are sensitive to sun exposure. White cats and cats with white ears and noses are very susceptible to sunburn so it is important to keep your cats and dogs inside more on very sunny days and to talk to your veterinarian about the occasional use of sunscreens.

Can I bring my dog to the family picnic/barbecue?
If you decide to take your dog to a picnic or barbecue this summer, it is recommended that you refrain from feeding greasy fat-laden barbecue food which can upset your dog’s stomach/pancreatitis/colitis. In addition, keep in mind that corn cobs can cause blockages and skewers can puncture intestines.

Can I take my dog swimming?
Not all dogs are good swimmers. Short-legged dogs, such as Corgis, are very poor swimmers, but most dogs with long legs, such as Labrador Retrievers, swim quite well. Common sense says not to take your dog swimming anywhere dangerous, where the current is too swift, the boat traffic too busy, or where if something went wrong you would both be in danger of drowning. Don’t forget to rinse them off if they were just in a lake or pool. Life jackets are available for dogs who go boating.

How can I keep my dog calm during a thunderstorm?
Many dogs are fearful of loud noises such as thunder and fireworks. Some dogs just need reassurance, but some dogs are too upset for a few calm words and some petting. If your dog is very afraid during summer storms, talk to your veterinarian, who may prescribe medication, behavior modification, or training tips to help calm your pet.

Should I let my cat out at night?
Many cats beg to go outside at night in the summer, even some cats that are very happy to remain indoors all winter long. But cats are at greater risk for disease and injury when they are outside, especially at night. If you feel you must let your cat go outside, be sure that he is up-to-date on all veterinarian recommended vaccinations.

Do dogs and cats get heat stroke?
Yes, they sure do. Don’t ever leave your pet in the car with the windows rolled up. On very hot days, don’t lock your pet in the garage. Remember that your dog and cat are just as vulnerable to the heat as your children and need to have plenty of water available and a cool place to rest. If it is hot, take it easy with your pet – play less, run less, cool off more often.

What does my pet need to travel with me in the car?
If you have a cat, he should travel in a carrier, both for his safety and yours. It would be a tragedy, and ruin your vacation, if he ran away when you opened the car door or rolled down the window at a tollbooth. If you have a dog, it would be wise to consider having him wear a seatbelt harness. Both your dog and cat should have collars with identification tags. You might also consider micro-chipping, which is permanent identification. You should also pack fresh water, their regular food, and their bowls, as well as any medications that they take. Medical records, including vaccination records, should be with you in case you need to board your pet or take him to another veterinary hospital for an emergency. When traveling with your pet, you should carry a recent photo with you in case your pet gets lost.

How do I find a good boarding kennel?
There will be times when you choose not to take your pets on vacation with you or you will be unable to take them along. Some pet owners use pet sitters, others choose to place their pets in a kennel. What should you look for in a kennel? Ask for a tour and look for cleanliness. The kennel workers must be kind to the animals and the kennel must promise to consult your veterinarian should an emergency arise. If you have an aging or ill pet, you may consider boarding your pet at your regular veterinary hospital so that people who are familiar with your pet can monitor any health problems. All kennels should ask for vaccination records for your pets. If you aren’t familiar with a reputable kennel, ask your veterinarian for a referral.

Can I take my dog camping?
Check with the campgrounds first. Most campgrounds allow dogs, but many have rules so that your pet is a good neighbor to the other campers. Here are some simple suggestions: keep your dog with you at all times, pick up after him as you would in any park, and be cautious when introducing your dog to strange dogs and new people. Camping may introduce ticks and the threat of Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian for help in avoiding these serious problems before setting out for the campsite. It is always recommended that you take a first aid kit with you on camping trips.

Why does my dog itch and scratch a lot in the summer?
There could be lots of reasons for itchiness. Fleas thrive in hot weather and are a common reason for many dogs and cats to scratch their skin. Even if your pet stays mainly indoors, fleas can be carried inside on your clothing. Seasonal allergies that might make you sneeze or your eyes water, are another reason our pets itch. Our dogs tend to get a little dirtier in the summer because they are outside more and that can cause their skin to itch. If you need help with your itchy pet, call your veterinarian. There are different strategies for different causes so it is important to have your pet examined so that the safest and most effective treatment can be prescribed by your veterinarian.

How do I remove a tick from my pet?
It is very easy for dogs and cats to acquire ticks in their haircoats. If you see a tick attached to your pet’s skin, don’t cover the tick with petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, or fingernail polish, or try to burn the tick with a match. Instead, grab the tick as close as you can to the skin using tweezers. Swab the area with alcohol once the tick is removed. Consult your veterinarians about ways to prevent tick infestations.

Can my dog get sick from a bee sting?
Lots of dogs snap at bees and flies that are buzzing around. Sometimes, the bee might sting your dog in the lip, resulting in some local swelling. If your dog allows you to put some ice on the swelling, it will often go away. Sometimes, however, a bee bite may result in an allergic or anaphylactic reaction. Should your pet exhibit extreme swelling on his entire face, lips, and eyelids, call your veterinarian immediately. Your dog may need an emergency trip to the animal hospital.

A visit to the veterinarian some time in the spring or early summer is recommended. If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page.