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5 Summer Pet Care Tips

Dog traveling in a car.
Dog enjoying traveling by car.

Summer is a great time to be a pet owner, but it also presents a lot of challenges. Between walks and beach trips, fireworks and extreme heat, summertime is full of hidden dangers. Stacy Oatman, media coordinator for the Wisconsin Humane Society, shares her tips on how to care for pets in these summer months.

1. Beating the heat.

"You want to make sure you're doing as much preventative work as you can to make sure that your pet doesn't overheat," says Oatman. That can include walking dogs early in the morning or later in the evening when it's less hot, making sure they have access to water outside, and taking breaks in the shade on walks.

You should also feel the pavement before you go on a walk, to make sure it's not too hot for a dog's paws. Oatman explains, "If that pavement is too hot for your hand, it's definitely too hot for their paw pads." Indoors, make sure there's plenty of water for pets and use air conditioning or a fan, when possible.

2. Pet has eaten something it shouldn't.

During spring and summer, pets can find baby animals, their instincts kick in, and they swallow them whole. "In most cases I would say eating a wild animal like a bunny or a bird... likely they would be okay, but it's always a good idea just to consult your vet," says Oatman.

Plants can be more difficult to deal with. Some common Wisconsin plants can be toxic for animals and cause alarming symptoms.

"Some of those would be a croakus, azalea or rhododendron, fox glove, lillies & lilly of the valley... In some cases the entire plant is going to be toxic to them, but in other cases it's just going to be the seed or the leaf that might be poisonous," she explains. She says people should also avoid cocoa mulch, since it has similar properties to chocolate. If you don't know what your pet has eaten, consult a vet and if you're able, bring the plant along to the appointment.

3. Handling fireworks.

"The number one, most important thing you can do is to make sure your pet's collar ID tags and microchips are up-to-date with your current information," says Oatman. Some animals tend to bolt when they hear loud, explosive sounds.

Leaving animals inside in a secure space is essential to making them feel more comfortable. That could be a kennel or crate, or a closed room where they feel safe. Using other noises like the TV, music, or a fan, can be a good way to mask the noise of fireworks. Thunder shirts or homeopathic remedies can also help pets calm down.

4. Swimming with dogs.

Dogs, like people, enjoy swimming. But also like people, they have varying levels of swimming prowess. "Not all of those animals are going to swim well and even those that do, they might not know how to get out of the pool or the lake that they're in," says Oatman.

For these reasons, pets should always wear a life vest. Bright colors can be especially helpful in bodies of water like a lake or stream. Staying in low-traffic and shallow water can also help keep pets safe.

5. Managing insects.

Ticks, fleas, and mosquitos can be dangerous for pets. "Those creepy-crawlies can carry tapeworms, they can carry heart worms, and diseases such as lime disease that obviously puts your pet at a serious risk," says Oatman. Topical or oral, monthly medications can mitigate the risk of these insects.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.
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