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STUDIO CITY (CBS) — Dr. Karen Halligan visited KCAL9 Monday to discuss pet safety during summer months.
For information about her advice, visit DocHalligan and read the tips below:
1) Prevent Heatstroke
Dogs and cats are highly susceptible to heatstroke because they have limited mechanisms to cool themselves: panting and losing heat through their tongue, nose, and footpads. Certain types of animals are more prone to heatstroke than others. Dogs with flat faces like pugs, bulldogs, or Boston terriers have a difficult time panting and thus can easily overheat. Also, dogs with heavy coats; older animals; obese dogs and cats; puppies and kittens under six months; pets who are ill; and pets on certain medications are at an even greater risk for overheating during the summer months. Nearly every case of heatstroke is preventable. Exercising and being left in a car are the two most common causes of heatstroke in dogs and cats. Dogs like to keep up with you while exercising and may not readily tell you they’re getting too hot until it’s too late. On a 75-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car—with the windows open—can quickly climb to over 100 degrees and cause overheating.
2) Prevent Parasites
These unwanted visitors may seem like mere nuisances, but they can cause serious, even fatal, diseases like Lyme disease and heartworm, in your pets if not dealt with properly. Therefore, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Fortunately for your pet and pocket book a new generic version of Frontline Plus (first time a generic has been made available much less expensive), called PetArmor Plus is available to help prevent, kill, and control most of these unwelcome invaders like fleas and ticks for only pennies a day. Also, your vet can prescribe a monthly oral pill to help prevent heartworm. The problem is that many pet owners wait until they see these creatures, have an infestation, or, worse, their pet becomes sick. The cost to treat illnesses related to fleas, ticks, and heartworms can be staggering, not to mention the unthinkable suffering and possible loss of your pet. This is why prevention is so important.
3) Steer Clear
Dogs and even some cats love to ride in the car, but you absolutely must resist the urge to let them accompany you during the summer months. Once temperatures soar above 75 degrees F, your car becomes a coffin. Even with the windows open, the temperature inside a car can quickly rise to deadly conditions. NEVER leave a pet in the car alone. It only takes a few minutes for the temperature to rise above 100 degrees, with fatal consequences for your pet. Every summer, emergency clinics and vet hospitals treat dying pets that often cannot be saved. These tragedies are completely preventable! Unless someone will be in the car at all times with your pet with the air-conditioning on, please leave your cat or dog at home.
4) Walk This Way
To keep your pet from overheating, don’t exercise your cat or dog during the hottest part of the day, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and be observant of your pet when you do take it outside. Catching heat exhaustion early is the key to success in treating this all-too-common deadly condition. Exercise your pet either early in the morning or late in the afternoon and bring plenty of water with you. Before starting your walk, give the sidewalk a test with the palm of your hand. If it’s too hot to touch, it can burn your pet’s footpads and you should avoid this surface. Stick to dirt paths, grass, or concrete surfaces. Keep your pet off of asphalt, which retains heat due to its composition and dark color; the tar base can melt and stick to the pads of your pet’s feet, causing burns. If you suspect that your pet has burned its paws, you need to take your pet to the vet right away. To help cool your pet at the end of a long walk, apply a cool, wet washcloth to the footpads.
5) Yearly vet exam
One of the most critical actions is taking your pet in at least once a year for a complete physical and dental exam. Of course, it’s important to visit the vet when your dog or cat is ill, but many pet owners don’t recognize the value of taking their pets to the doctor even when they aren’t sick. Remember that animals are programmed to conceal illness in the wild—where it’s about survival of the fittest and the weakest animals are preyed upon first—so cats and dogs don’t always show you when they’re not feeling well. In addition, unfortunately, life spans of dogs and cats are much shorter than ours, and many diseases in the early stages are not readily apparent, such as abnormalities of the heart, kidney disease, thyroid problems, and even cancer. Never underestimate the importance of your cat or dog’s yearly exam.
6) Block That Sun
Sunlight is necessary to produce vitamin D, which helps protect the skin as well as balance the body’s calcium levels and metabolism. However, too much of anything can be harmful, and too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause sunburn or solar dermatitis in some animals. White cats and certain breeds of dogs, like boxers and Weimaraners, are especially vulnerable to sunburn and therefore need extra protection from the sun. Sunburn is also common in white and shorthaired dogs. Sunburn usually occurs on the abdomen, bridge of the nose, ear tips, groin, and insides of the legs. The belly is prone to sunburn because of sunlight that reflects up from the sidewalk. Dogs that spend a lot of time at beaches can get sunburned as the sun reflects up from the hot, white sand. To protect pets from sunburn and its consequences, you can apply sunblock to the small susceptible areas of the skin such as the bridge of the nose and ear tips. You can also apply sunblock along any part in the fur on your pet’s head and back. You should use SPF 30 and you can mix it 50/50 with Vaseline. For dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, sunblock isn’t effective on the tummy, since it can rub off. There are spandex bodysuits designed to block UV radiation that will be effective in protecting your active dog from sunburn.
7) Insect Bites
Spiders, bees, yellow jackets, hornets, and fire ants all bask in the warmth of sunny summer days. Curious pets often get stung on the face and paws as they investigate or try to play with these stinging creatures. Most reactions manifest themselves as swelling and itching of the face, eyes, and ears or small circular areas of swelling all over the body called hives or urticaria. These symptoms are easily treated with antihistamines like Benadryl at one mg per pound. However, some dogs and cats will develop life-threatening clinical signs such as breathing difficulties and swollen throats, which require immediate veterinary care; if left untreated, this can be fatal. To minimize the chance of insect bites or stings, check your yard for any nests or hives and keep pets away from these areas until you have them removed by a pest control company.
8) Weekly Once Over
Animals meow, bark, hiss, and howl, but since they can’t talk, they can’t tell you when they don’t feel well. Performing your own physical exam on your pet once a week is so important in the early detection of illness. Be vigilant. You must become aware of your pet’s normal routines and habits. This is an easy yet indispensable way of picking up on early warning signs, such as changes in your pet’s diet, behavior, activity level, and regular routine.
9) Pet Proofing Against Poisons
Pet-proofing your home, garage, and yard can make the difference between life and death for your pet, so take a thoughtful walk around all of these areas once a month and inspect your pet’s surroundings to ensure your cat or dog is safe in its own environment. Some of the most common sources of poisoning are right in your own home and yard: medications, insecticides, rodenticides, pesticides, cleaning products, plants, ethylene glycol, garbage, and food poisoning. In any case of potential poisoning, it’s critical to find the container of the toxic substance and know the ingredients when seeking veterinary advice. All poisons are not created equal, nor are they treated the same way. Knowing what toxic substance your pet ingested could make the difference in its survival. Always call ahead before taking your dog or cat to the vet clinic to make sure a doctor can see your pet and to let the staff know you’re on the way. Furthermore, it’s much better to err on the side of caution and have all emergencies seen by a vet.
10) Who am I?
Summer time can mean road trips for you and your pet. Proper identification can be a matter of life and death. This is especially critical when you travel with your pets. Think of it as their driver’s license. All pets should be wearing a properly fitting collar and ID tags at all times and have a microchip. This includes cats that never go outside. I recommend using a breakaway collar for cats. Make sure the collars are not too loose or too tight, and remember to adjust or change the collar as your pet grows. Small breeds of dogs that are predisposed to tracheal problems do better with a harness rather than a collar. Another very important form of identification is microchipping, in which a tiny device is implanted beneath the skin. The chip has a number that can be read by a special scanner, and that number is registered in a national database with your name, address, and telephone number, which must be updated if you move or change phone numbers. If your pet gets lost and is turned over to a shelter or vet clinic, a scanner can be used to find out your information. As long as the information is current, you’ll be contacted and reunited with your pet.