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Summertime Pet Safety Tips

Grilling out, swimming, biking, picnics, and trips to the lake; these thoughts cruise through our minds as summer is now in full swing. Long sunny summer days beckon to us, ‘Come enjoy the outdoors with family, friends, and pets!’

To fully enjoy summers with our pets, we must be mindful of the dangers that threaten their health and the precautions needed to be taken. Hot, humid weather, summer sun, accompanying us on road trips, and joining us for celebrations can expose our pets to dangerous situations.

4th of July

Picnics, fireworks, and the red, white, blue; July 4th is the unofficial first celebration of our summer. While we greet fireworks with OOOO’s and AAHHHH’s, the unexpected deafening explosions and weird whizzing objects bursting into bright lights can trigger sheer panic in our pets.

Firework celebrations assault animals’ acute sense of hearing, sight, and smell. Pets may feel they stepped out the door into the middle of a war zone. Pets have limited defenses against scary situations, so many take the option they have - ESCAPE. Disorientated from the noise and fear, they run blindly. Anyone who works with animal rescues or in shelters will tell you that lost animals are picked up in droves around the 4th.

Pets should not be taken to activities with fireworks, it’s that simple. Keep pets at home where they feel the most secure. Housing them in an interior room with a radio playing and windows shut will mitigate the noise and lessen their anxiety. Accompanying them outdoors and walking them on leashes when they need to go out will add to your peace of mind and keep them safe. Pets with registered microchips wearing well-fitted collars with your current contact information also have a greater chance of being returned should they become lost.

Picnics and Pests

Cookouts and picnics are summer traditions that can be enjoyed safely with your pets if you take precautions. Many foods we take for granted pose significant health risks to our pets. Sugar-free sweeteners found in beverages, foods, and sugar-free gum can put pets at substantial risk. Products like xylitol interfere with your pets’ ability to control their blood sugar. Raisins, grapes, onions, macadamia nuts, avocado, chocolate, coffee are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets. Corn on the cob and any cooked food containing bones presents a choking hazard. Bones become brittle when cooked and can perforate organs causing medical emergencies.

As pet owners, we are aware of the dangers posed by fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes and the need for appropriate prevention. All these pests can cause your pet to scratch, irritating their skin. Add in summertime heat and humidity along with the scratching and the normal bacteria of the skin can get out of control. It doesn’t take long for the skin to become irritated, inflamed and raw, creating what is commonly referred to as a “hot spot.” More often than not, these irritations require veterinary care.

Allergies typically flare up during the summer months. Pets' ears, eyes, and/or skin itch causing them to lick and scratch, intensifying the problem. If you take your dog swimming or if they love to play in the water, there are a few steps you can take to prevent problems. Ensure you dry their coat thoroughly, all the way to the skin, and regularly use a vet recommended solution to clean and dry their ears. A pet that remains wet is at risk for flystrike and maggots, which will make a hot spot seem like a walk in the park. Flies are attracted to moisture and any open wounds; they lay eggs producing maggots. Maggots burrow into their fur and begin eating. No question, it is one of the most unpleasant experiences for both pets and owners. Preventing fly strike is worth taking the extra time to dry your pet and treat any wounds.

Bee stings can cause mild discomfort or more, a severe reaction. Animals can be allergic to bee stings, exhibiting reactions similar to what we would experience. Signs of a reaction that require medical attention can include hives, significant swelling, general weakness, and difficulty breathing.

Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers should be used with caution around pets. Pets are sensitive to chemicals that we typically use on ourselves to prevent tick and mosquitoes. Human products like Deet should not be applied to pets. Generally, pets should not come into contact with wet chemicals. Read the labels, follow individual instructions, or question your lawn care professionals concerning the safety of products. If you have any concerns, contact one of the pet poison control hotlines. (listed at the end of this article)

Paws, Hot Surfaces, & Sunburn

Paw pads are sensitive! They can blister and burn, similar to our feet and hands when we touch hot surfacing. Asphalt and concrete can be too hot for your pet to walk on. If you can’t hold your hand on that surface for five seconds, it’s too hot for your pet. When you do go outside, keep in mind that a lighter surface will be cooler than a darker one. Grass will remain significantly cooler than man-made or exposed surfaces.

Sunburn is also a concern for pets. It’s just as uncomfortable for your pet as it is for us. Also like us, lighter haired animals have lighter skin coloring, making them more susceptible to sunburn. Their coats protect them from the rays of the sun, so it is important they are well groomed and have shade.

Over Heating & Heat Stroke

Heat-related illness affects both people and pets. Like us, young, old and ill animals are more prone to problems, as are breeds with short muzzles and squished faces that have ‘naturally’ compromised airways. High heat and humidity doesn’t allow the pet to adequately cool themselves by panting.

Heat stress can occur when pets play or work in hot environments and when they are exposed to high temperatures without a place to escape the heat. When a pet’s temperature rises from the normal 101/102 to as high as 104/106, the pet is in immediate, life-threatening danger.

Signs of heat stress can include: raspy loud breathing, tongue expands and becomes scoop-shaped, unsteady on their feet, acting disorientated or not responding to us, diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures. Immediate veterinary care is needed IF ANY of these symptoms are exhibited as heat stroke can result in death.

Keeping your pet well-groomed and at an ideal weight will help them manage the summer heat. Some pets love swimming or laying in kiddie pools which provides them another way to cool off. Do not force activity during hot, humid weather. Continuing to throw a ball or playing can be considered forced activity; stop encouraging your pet to keep moving before they become overheated. Plan activities keeping an eye on the weather; any exercise or work needs to take place during the coolest part of the day. You may have to force rest for pets like you do for kids. To avoid your pet from becoming overheated - take frequent breaks, provide fresh cool drinking water, adequate shade, and a place indoors to cool off.

Car Trips

The temperature in a vehicle rises very quickly, even on a mild day. The temperature inside can rise 20 degrees in just ten minutes and 30 degrees in twenty minutes. On a 70 degree day that makes the interior temperature of a car over 100 degrees in less than half an hour. Leaving windows open a couple inches doesn’t make a significant difference. Avoid taking your pet on trips that require them to remain in a car unattended.

Emergency Animal Clinics and Pet Poison Hotlines

Better safe than sorry applies to our pets as well as us. Having emergency numbers on hand will save you valuable time when seconds matter.

It is always a good idea to have the numbers of the nearest 24hour emergency pet clinics in your phone.

Premier Veterinary Group

3927 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

MedVet Chicago

3123 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

The Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center are staffed by veterinarians and qualified experts 24hours a day. The Pet Poison staff is capable of assisting with exotic and large animals in addition to dogs and cats. Both services require payment.

Pet Poison Helpline (toll free) 1.800.213.6680. Website:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (toll free) 1.888.426.4435.

Educating yourself to potential summertime dangers and taking a few precautions will enable you to enjoy a magnificent summer filled with grand adventures for you and your best friend!

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