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Summer is a time of sun and fun, but summer heat can be hazardous for pets. Here are seven pitfalls that commonly bring pets to Gentle Touch Animal Hospital in summer, the signs you should recognize, and what you should do if your pet gets into hot water.

#1: Heatstroke in pets

Dogs regulate their body temperature primarily by panting to release heat. Heatstroke occurs when their body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, and the body is unable to cool itself. Heatstroke signs include excessive panting, staggering, blue/purple gums, seizures, and collapse. To prevent heatstroke, which can be fatal:

  • Consider the time of day — Exercise your dog in the early morning before the pavement gets hot, and the ambient temperature is still cool. Keep their exercise periods short, and walk in the shade. Always check the pavement with the palm of your hand before your walk—if you cannot comfortably keep your hand on the pavement for five to seven seconds, it could burn your dog’s paw pads.
  • Keep pets hydrated — Provide plenty of cool water inside and outside. Consider adding a bowl of frozen water for your pet to lick, to keep them cool and hydrated. High-risk brachycephalic breeds (e.g., bulldogs, and pugs) should be kept inside in air-conditioning essentially all day.
  • Consider your pet’s age and weight — Older and obese pets are at increased risk for heatstroke.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked car — In 75-degree weather, the temperature inside a parked car can rise to dangerous levels in only 10 to 20 minutes, despite cracked windows, and your pet can quickly succumb to heat exhaustion.  

If you think your pet is suffering from heatstroke, start cooling off their body with lukewarm tap water, and contact our hospital immediately for help.

#2: Altitude sickness and sun exposure

We’re a mile high already, so watch for:

  • Altitude sickness — Traveling to higher altitudes can adversely affect your pet. Watch for shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. Contact us immediately if you are concerned, and get your pet to a lower altitude as quickly as possible.
  • Sunburn — Like people, pets can suffer from sunburn. Higher elevations increase the risk, but pet-safe sunscreen options are available. Skin cancers can occur in dogs and cats, with white animals especially at risk of solar-induced cancers, such as hemangiosarcoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 

#3: Bodies of water

Cherry Creek Reservoir is down the street, and Aurora Reservoir is only 30 minutes away. If your dog is going to be around water, ensure they can swim beforehand, and always keep watch. 

  • Life vests — Not all dogs are natural or confident swimmers, so ensure they wear a life vest when in the water, or on a boat. At the beach, ensure they do not drink too much saltwater, which can be toxic.
  • Pool protocol — If you take your dog to a pool to cool off, teach them where the exit steps are located, because dogs can drown trying to climb out of a pool without the help of stairs. 

#4: Barbeques

Barbecue cooking smells are enticing to pets, but pose dangers, as well.

  • Barbecue foods — High-fat foods can cause problems in pets, from minor diarrhea to potentially life-threatening pancreatitis, and bones and corn cobs can lead to life-threatening intestinal obstruction or perforation. Just say “No” to begging, drooling furry faces.
  • Barbecue heat —  Barbecue smells will likely tempt your furry friend to get close to the source, but keep them a safe distance from the hot grill to avoid being burned.

#5: Fireworks

Bright lights and loud booms may be thrilling for people, but can be terrifying for dogs and cats, who often hide, or run away during fireworks displays—for example, more pets are lost and/or injured on July Fourth than any other day. Various strategies and medications are available to help pets with noise phobias. We also recommend microchipping your pet, to provide permanent identification should they get lost. One study showed 52% of microchipped dogs were reunited with their families, compared with 22% of dogs not microchipped.

#6: Summer travel

Unfortunately, not all pets enjoy car or plane rides, and may need help with travel anxiety, but our Fear Free-certified veterinary team can help. Planning and preparing ahead of a trip is key to successfully traveling with pets.

#7: Pesky parasites

The alpine desert we call home is catching up with other states and harbors many varieties of fleas, ticks and mosquitos—many of them year round. Pets should be protected from these pests, and the diseases they transmit, including Lyme and heartworm disease, especially if they will be traveling. Consult one of our veterinarians about which prevention option would be best for your pet.

With planning and preparation, all your furry family members can enjoy the rest of the summer season. Don’t hesitate to contact our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital about any summer safety concerns, or if your pet lets the heat get them down.