Veterinarians Remind Owners to Think of Pet Safety during Summer

Americans will be celebrating July 4 with food, fireworks and being outside, and it’s important to remember that while owners are enjoying summer, they need to be mindful to keep pets safe as well.

Auburn University veterinarians Dr. Robert Lofton and Dr. Chris Lea says owners should take similar care of their pets as they do children around grills, fireworks and during hot weather. The two veterinarians provide wellness and preventative care in the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic, and offer some advice on caring for your pet during the dog days of summer.

“Several dog breeds are predisposed to overheating, but all animals can suffer from heat exhaustion, especially in summer’s mid-90-degree weather,” Lea said.  “Risks of heat exhaustion increases with activities outside, but also with traveling in the car, particularly when left in a parked car for even a short amount of time.”

Dogs who have flat-noses, called brachycephalic, like English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Shih Tzus and pugs; heavily-muscled dogs like pit bulls and boxers; large breed dogs; and any overweight animal is at an increase to suffer from overheating due their poor ability to dissipate heat.

“Dogs with health problems like laryngeal paralysis (an airway cartilage abnormality that results in loud, noisy breathing or a change in bark) are also predisposed to heat stroke,” he added. “And, dogs who regularly carry tennis balls in their mouths can be at risk because the ball partially blocks their airway, which can prevent adequate panting.”

Signs of heat stroke in animals includes constant panting, slowing down, collapse, dark red gums, little urine production and lethargy. “If any of these signs occur, pet owners should cool their pets immediately by using a source of lukewarm to cool water, not cold water,” Lofton said.  “Put the animal in a pond or pool, or use a garden hose to wet the animal.

“And, owners should immediately call their pet’s veterinarian.”

Fireworks can be another danger for animals. From sparklers to bottle rockets, flames from fireworks can injure people and pets, and fumes and other chemical agents in fireworks can be potentially harmful to animals.

While July 4 festivities wouldn’t be the same without fireworks, pets should be kept at a distance, if not inside. Common sites for pets to be burned from fireworks include the face, muzzle, lips, tongue and paws. A pet that ingests fireworks, the heavy metals or other materials can have vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, jaundice, tremors, and seizures.

“The loud noises from fireworks also scare many animals so make sure your pet is in a safe and secure place to prevent them from running away,” Lea says.

Even some of the most common July 4 picnic foods – like corn, grapes, raisins and fatty meat scraps – can be harmful to pets. “While corn is not toxic to pets, the cob can easily become lodged in a dog’s esophagus or intestines, often requiring surgical removal,” he added.

Although grapes and raisins are treats for people, even a few can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs and, potentially, cats, she says.

Dogs, like people, can become sick from fatty meats. “When dogs eat large amounts of fat and grease, they may suffer from pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which is painful and potentially life-threatening,” Lofton says. “Certain breeds, especially miniature Schnauzers, are more likely to develop pancreatitis.”