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Pet Health

Summer Safety

Val Cairney June 11, 2021 30


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Hello everyone, and welcome to this episode of Val Talk’s Pets.  Well the weather has finally changed and it’s time to talk about summer safety and summer activities with our pets.  There are definitely some summer do’s and don’ts for pets and some equipment that you might want to have on hand for activities and hot days.

Cats

Let’s start with cats.  Many cats are indoor cats that do not go outside.  When the temperature outside really soars it is best to keep your indoor cat in a cool air conditioned environment.  Cats will sometimes bath in the sun and you would think that they would regulate their exposure on their own, but not always, so keep an eye on how long kitty is lying in the sun to avoid getting overheated.  If you do not have air conditioning and the temperature inside the home is rather uncomfortable, try to have windows open that will create air flow.  However, an open window can be just the right escape for a cat.  If the windows are open, you need to check and make sure that your cat can’t paw the screen open, or worse make a hole in the screen and escape.  Some rigging of the open window will be necessary to make sure the air is flowing but kitty is safe inside.  Make sure the cat’s water is changed frequently so it is not too warm.  It is also suggested that several water stations be set up in all of your cat’s favourite places to ensure drinking. And if you usually have play time with your cat, it’s probably best to wait until the sun has moved around and the house has cooled down a bit and also light play is probably the best option. Now, let’s take a look at our kitty friends who go outside.  A cat outdoors can quickly become dehydrated, so just as you should have multiple water stations for an indoor cat, you should have several bowls of water outside in shady areas for your cat.  Washing the bowls every day ensures bacteria isn’t building up and freshening the water regularly throughout the day will coax kitty to drink and avoid that sudden dehydration. If your cat goes outside tethered make sure that it is not on a hot deck, patio or driveway that doesn’t allow them to get to a shady spot.  A cat’s paws can get severely burnt on a hot surface as well as increasing the risk of heat stroke, so tethering without refuge is downright cruel.  If you can early morning and early evening outdoor time is probably best in a heat wave. For our kitties who get to wander a bit, the same rules apply, that water must be readily available and be very aware if lawn pesticides have been applied or vermin poison has been set out.  Make sure any poison is in a safe container and if the lawn has just had a treatment, it may be best to skip the outside trip for a day or two.  If you just can’t keep your cat in and the lawn has been treated, make sure to wash your cat’s paws as often as possible. Now, for both indoor and outdoor cats, it is necessary to know the signs of heat stroke.  Cats can only pant and or sweat through their foot pads to release heat. If your cat is panting, lethargic, vomiting or having trouble standing, this could be signs of heat stroke.  In this case the cat’s body needs to be cooled immediately and medical attention needs to sought if you are finding the symptoms are getting worse because a cat can go into organ failure very quickly.  So applying cool cloths repeatedly gradually dropping the core temperature is the route.  Don’t dunk a cat with heat stroke in a cool or cold bath, this will just accelerate everything into a place you do not want to go and more than likely it will turn out badly.  As I’ve said in another episode, you should know the phone number and directions to your nearest emergency vet clinic and have done your homework first to see if they require a billing of your credit card  before looking at your pet.  Hopefully, you will have caught the heat stroke right away and the application of cool cloths will do the trick.  Now besides from providing shade, a cool place, lots of water, some people may be tempted to shave their long hair cat thinking that this will be cooler for summer.  Well, the answer here is, never shave your cat.  Their fur is there to keep them warm and cool.  Upsetting this part of nature is not a good thing.  Plus, a cat can get sunburned just like humans, so exposing their skin is just asking for trouble. What you can do though, is brush your cat a lot.  This will get out undercoat and provide a cooler coat for your cat.   

Rabbits and other small animals

So let’s talk about our smaller friends for a bit.  A lot of people own rabbits as pets and it’s very tempting to let our little bunnies enjoy some outdoor time on a warm day.  Rabbits actually are less tolerate of heat than cold and do not do well with extreme temperature changes.  If you decide to keep your rabbit inside, keep in mind the same cautions as for cats.  It is best to move their hutch out of direct sunlight and perhaps move their habitat to a cool place if the house is becoming very warm.  Bunnies actually enjoy cool ceramic tiles to lie on to keep cool, so you can always add a few tiles into their habitat for this reason.  A fan can also be used to help circulate air, but just make sure it is not directly blowing on bunny.  And just as with cats, cool water available at all times and changed regularly is absolutely necessary.  Also, washing their greens in cool water adds some moisture to their intake as well.  

If your bun lives indoors but would like to enjoy some outdoor time, for fresh air, sunshine and some nice grass, you can take your bunny out on a rabbit harness and leash.  This way you can enjoy the outdoor time with them, and keep them close and safe and monitor how long they have been in the sunshine and then move them to a shadier place.  Now if you have an outdoor pen or hutch this works great as well, but again you will need to watch that your bunny hasn’t been exposed to direct sunlight for too long.  If you can’t move your pen or hutch then rig up some umbrellas or shade sails.  And again, water, water, water.  

And just like cats, additional grooming with increased brushing of your bunny will help keep them cooler through the hot months.  Now, if your bunny goes into heat stroke, you will have to act fast.  Look for those telltale signs of vomiting and being wobbly or prostrate on the ground or floor.  If this happens, get the bunny into a cool place immediately and begin applying cool cloths to their ears, and then to the body.  Again, do not dunk the bunny in cold water.  You may have to seek medical care so have that emergency vet number and directions close by.  Once the temperature outside is over 29 degrees Celsius or 85 degrees Fahrenheit, it is way too hot for your bunny to be outside unless they live outside and have a shady temperature regulated hutch.  

Dogs

Okay, so that brings us to our super outdoor friends; dogs.  Most dogs just love to be part of the family, enjoying outdoor time, playing and hanging about the BBQ.  Most times when summer is at a nice temperature, playing ball, Frisbee or going for walks is just part of enjoying the warm weather.  Even so the temperature may not be soaring, it’s still important to make sure your dog has access to cool water all the time and a shady place to lie and have a nap.  Now this is also where you will have to be diligent about flea and tick and mosquitoes.  Remember to always have a tick key handy because there can easily be that one that gets by the protection you have given your dog and will have to be removed.  For more in depth information on fleas, ticks and mosquitoes access my episode on fleas, ticks and worms oh my!  So, let’s say the temperature is soaring and we have to take all precautions to make sure our dogs do not get heat stroke.  So, first things first, ask yourself if it’s too hot for your dog to stay outside.  If you are inside because it’s just too hot, your dog needs to be inside as well.  Our Tundra is a very furry dog, so it’s hot, we let him go outside to do his thing, but we set a fifteen minute timer and then bring him in.  We do this periodically throughout the day.  Now, if it’s on the warmer side and the dog wants to be out with you there are some products that can help.  There are cooling bandanas that you can purchase for your dog.  The bandanas are designed to soak in cold water, wring out and place on your dog’s neck the evaporation of the cold water will help keep your dog cool.  There are also, cooling vest.  Cooling vest use the same principle where you soak the vest in cold water and place it on your dog.  Another item that you may want to check out is a cooling mat.  There are some mats that you fill with cold water and then the dog lies on it.  There are also other types of cooling mats that use an activated gel that the dog again, can lie on.  But, you know, easier said than done.  We have a gel cooling mat for Tundra, but he will not, no way, lie on it.  His favourite cooling off technique….dig a big hole and lie in it. For this reason, I have grooming wipes to wipe down Mr. dirty fur when he comes in from a lovely lie in his hole for a nap.  

As with cats and small animals, put out several bowls of water and change the water so it stays cool.  Never, leave your dog outside when it is hot, thinking they will just find shade.  If it’s too hot for you, it’s too for them.  And dogs with light colour noses are definitely at risk for sunburn.  There are some really good snout creams on the market and I believe Wendie Patrick from Finnesiam has a great product that you can order on line for noses that need some attention.  

Now, if we are just having some summer fun with our dogs, let’s talk about safety tips to make sure the summer goes by without incident.  

One thing to think about when spring and early summer comes around is pesticides and on lawn feeds etc. It’s really important to be aware if there has been any lawn treatments or bug spraying done to areas or environments where your dog may go.  A dog rolling on a treated lawn and then licking himself can create some nasty upsets and may even require quickly getting to the vet.  So, be very aware and cautious when you are around insecticides, garden and lawn treatments. 

If you like to take your dog boating or canoeing there are also some safety things to think about.  If you are going to canoe with your dog, I highly recommend taking your dog on a few practice runs in the canoe on a small lake or pond.  Taking the dog out several times, will get them used to the idea of sitting still in the canoe.  The last thing you need is an anxious dog in a canoe with your gear, jumping into a large lake and tipping you and all your gear into the water.  When I had my border collies, we were avid canoeists, and we practiced with both dogs in the canoe on our pond several times.  They really responded to canoeing and just enjoying the cool bottom on the canoe and motion.  Well, out we went onto a very large lake paddling into what is called a canoe in site for camping.  The canoe had all our gear, ourselves and the dogs.  Everything was going just as practiced, until the male dog, saw a Loon.  Well that’s one we didn’t anticipate.  Well, he stood up and then put his front legs on the gunnel and if we weren’t in such a balanced and well-made canoe, I’m sure we would have been in the drink.  It took a bit to get the dog back into a sitting position, but we did and thank goodness he never did that again.  

Either way, if you are in a canoe or boat, your dog should be wearing a life jacket.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had someone spy the dog life jackets and say, what for?  Don’t dogs know how to swim naturally?  Well, yes they do, most of them, but the problem is that if the dog falls or jumps out of the boat or canoe his instinct is to swim to shore, not to you.  You could easily be several kilometers away from shore and the dog will continue swimming until most likely he tires and then drowns.   A life jacket will help keep him afloat and most have a handy handle on the top to allow you to grab hold and either direct him back to the boat with you or haul him back in.  There is also the other scenario where there is a capsize and the same thing happens where the dog swims for land.  Also, not all breeds are made for swimming and when they hit the water, they sink like a stone.  So, just be cautious and make sure your dog is wearing his or her life jacket.  And as a final very important point about dogs in a canoe or boat, never tie them into the canoe or boat.  If you capsize, they will drown. 

If you have a real water loving dog, there are some great water toys that you can get that will allow your dog to see the toy in the water inside of swimming around and around in circles looking for something that may have sunk.  There a floating Frisbees, Kongs and skipping stones that you can purchase from your pet speciality store to make that dock diving even more fun.  

If you do  have a real swimmer, I also suggest you have on hand some antibiotic ear drops just in case that swimmer’s ear acts up after being in the water all day.  Also, make sure you dry your dog thoroughly so as not to create skin issues with bacteria’s that could cause an onset of hot spots or itchy dermatitis.  Colloidal silver on hand is a really good choice.  I also keep a product called Nature’s Aid on hand for scraps or bites.  It is all natural and is made in Niagara On The Lake, Ontario.  Wendie Patrick also has an ointment for scraps and owees.  

So, let’s recap here.  Cats, small animals and dogs can really enjoy the warm weather, and we can protect them from heat stroke, sunburn and toxins.  We can also provide fun warm weather toys and games but we need to be mindful of the degree of temperature.  Cooling products are definitely something to have on hand, as well as pet first aid products.  And remember those life jackets!

Well that’ leads me to my Pet Peeves section.

Pet Peeves

Well I bet you can guess what my Pet Peeve is for this topic.  Never, ever, leave your dog, cat or small pet in a car during the summer.  It absolutely astounds me, that every year, there is a story about a poor dog dying in a hot car.  Here’s a story from last summer.  It was a hot day, 28 degrees Celsius and I and a colleague were out back of the store where the driveway backs onto a park and has trees and usually only employees use to park.  We were actually watching a ground hog when a SUV pulled up and parked under one the trees.  We didn’t recognize the vehicle from any of the other business employees we usually see.  A senior woman got out, walked past us, went around the corner and headed to the grocery store across the way.  We looked at each other and thought that was strange and then I thought I saw something move in her vehicle.  I said to my colleague, does, she have a dog in that car?  So, I went over to the vehicle and sure enough she had two dogs in the car and the windows were down about 3 inches.  They weren’t in distress but they would be depending on how long she was going to be and the day was getting hotter.  Well you know what, I wasn’t taking any chances so I called the police.  They took about 20 minutes to arrive, because I called a direct line, not the emergency line and the woman had not returned.  The policeman checked everything out and he was just about to go to the grocery store to try and find her, when low and behold who comes around the corner with her shopping cart.  Well you would never believe what happened after that.  The policeman was very stern and admonishing for her behaviour and she just argued back that no one had the right to judge what she did because she had parked in the shade and the dogs were fine.  She actually told my colleague to go, well you can imagine what she told her to do and she was still arguing with the police. Her excuse was that she had taken the dogs to the vet and she just needed some groceries so instead of driving them home and then going out again, she decided to put them at risk and tempt the fates as to whether they would die of heat stroke or not.  I wish stories like this were never heard of again, but we know that they will, because people just don’t get it!  Never, leave your pet in a car during the summer or on any warm or hot day.  That’s it!  For those of us who are caring and cautious pet parents, we would never do this, but people keep doing it. So, you can spread the word! Put it on Facebook, put on whatever social media you can.  Never leave a pet in a hot car. Spread the word everyone, save a pet, because as I say, knowing is caring!

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Val Cairney

Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

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