21 May 2013

Warm weather tips for the compassionate pet guardian

 Each spring, the arrival of longer, warmer days after so many bone-chilling weeks of winter makes us humans rejoice. But for our companion animals, spring and summer are too often a time for suffering, not celebrating. Here are a few reminders for helping your dog and cat enjoy beach weather as much as you do:

Keep critters off of Fluffy and Fido. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitos love the warm weather too. But their bites can be not merely annoying, but actually life threatening to your pets. (Mosquitos spread heart worm, for example). Talk to your veterinarian about treatment options; both chemical and natural solutions are plentiful.

Watch where you walk. Yes, it’s great to get outside and give your dog (and yourself) some healthy exercise. Unfortunately, it’s still common for lawns to be sprayed with toxic substances (this includes residential lawns as well as those in public spaces), so steer clean when the grass looks a little too green. You don’t want your pooch to pick up poisons on his paws—which he’ll either lick off or track all over your house, neither of which is a safe scenario.

Shave and a haircut? Think twice. Pets are supposed to be furry, so shaving is not a good idea. (Fur helps regulate animals’ body temperature in both hot and cold weather, and it protects them from sunburn.) On the other hand, you should help your pet shed that heavy winter coat. So do some heavy-duty brushing to rid your furry friend of all that excess fluff.

Poolside pleasures. If you have a yard and can safely let your dog outside, lucky you! Just make sure that there’s a shady spot for resting and plenty of fresh water for drinking, since your pup can get just as parched as you can. Many dogs enjoy and can benefit from the cooling effect of a sprinkler or kiddie pool, so provide these too if you’re able. (Very short-haired dogs may develop skin cancer, so check with your vet about using dog-friendly sun protection. Do not assume a sunscreen designed for humans will work, as it may contain ingredients toxic to animals.)

Parked car = Doggie deathtrap. Sure, you’ve heard it before, but I bet you’re still tempted to crack the window and leave your four-legged baby in the car for “just a minute” while you bump to get that iced latte. Don’t do it! Those lines at the coffee shop can be painfully slow, and you might run into someone you know and begin chatting. And soon that minute has turned into ten or twenty, which is enough time for the temperature inside your parked car to reach well over 100°, even on a relatively mild day. No latte in the world is worth losing your pet from heatstroke, is it?

A little vacation planning goes a long way. If your pets like traveling and can be accommodated on your vacation, consider taking them along! (There are more and more pet-friendly hotels these days.) But if your feline or canine won’t be joining you, make sure your time apart brings them delight, not distress. Whether you use a pet sitter or a boarding kennel, get plenty of references and never leave your baby anywhere you haven’t visited in person. The best sitters and kennels offer play, exercise, and affection, not just room and board, so keep looking until you find what your pet needs and deserves.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your treasured tabby or terrier savors the sunny months as much ahead.

Elizabeth Gordon | Facebook | TwitterBlog | Website
Massachusetts Elizabeth is a writer, educator, and vegan advocate. She lives on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border with her husband and their quirky animal companions: a dog, two cats, and four fish (all rescues). An avid plant-based cook, she's proud to have finally perfected vegan versions of foods from her dual heritage—meatloaf, mac and cheese, and bacon from her Southern side, as well as potstickers, summer rolls, and wonton soup from her Asian side. (Plus she makes a drool-worthy buffalo wing pizza.) Elizabeth is the creator of the website MassVegan.org and founder of Vegans of North Central Mass.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/bredgur