10 summer health hazards for pets and how to protect them, according to an expert

·8 min read
Heat is the most common concern for pets during the summer. (Photo via Getty Images)
As we spend more time outdoors during the summer, experts say there are precautions we need to take to make sure our four-legged friends are safe. (Photo via Getty Images)

Every season presents different risks for our furry friends — especially in the summer when they’re spending more time outside.

From extreme temperatures to toxic plants and fertilized lawns, there are various precautions pet owners should take to keep their dogs, cats

We spoke to a veterinarian and animal expert about the 10 most common hazards our pets may face this summer.

1. Heat

Just like us, pets are significantly impacted by the heat.

Dr. Rebecca Jackson, an instructor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, says you need to be very careful when it’s hot outside because just like humans, animals can also suffer from heatstroke.

“It’s kind of different because they can't sweat through their skin so they can really only sweat through their paw pads and you know, by panting so we have to keep in mind that they're so much more susceptible to heat stroke,” Jackson explains.

The sun also heats the pavement, which can pose another serious risk for pets.

“They're [burnt paws] really difficult to heal because the paw pads aren't very vascular. When there's injury and burning injury in that area, it can take months and months and months to kind of get that tissue back to that paw pad," Jackson adds. "That hot pavement, especially dark pavement, is a big problem.”

Another important reminder in the summer is to never leave your pet inside the car, especially when it’s hot outside.

A car often heats up quickly and has no air circulation, which means it won’t take long for your pet to suffer the consequences. Jackson says it can take as little as 10 minutes for a pet to suffer “irreparable brain damage from heatstroke” inside a vehicle.

2. Fertilizers and pesticides

If you're someone who loves keeping your lawn in tip-top shape, just be conscious of chemicals that may be conscious to our pets.

If you’re using fertilizer, herbicides or insecticides, it’s recommended to keep your pet away from the area being treated until it’s dry.

While fertilizers are typically safe for pets, certain products contain blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, and iron that can be tasty and dangerous in large quantities. Ingesting too much of these products can lead to stomach issues and severe pancreatitis.

If you suspect your pet has ingested one of these products, you can call the pet poison helpline or your veterinarian to see if they need treatment.

Ticks are a big issue and can transmit diseases, like Lyme disease, to dogs. (Photo via Getty Images)
Veterinarians recommend checking your pet for ticks after they've been outside. (Photo via Getty Images)

3. Plants

A lot of us enjoy gardening in the summer — but experts say you need to be mindful of what you’re planting to ensure your pets don’t get sick.

Certain garden plants can be harmful to dogs and cats, including tomato plants, rhubarb, garlic, chives, and leeks. If you’re unsure if what you’re planting is dangerous then it’s always better to do some research first.

It’s not only vegetable plants, but flowers you need to be aware of as well. Tulips, lilies, azaleas, irises and monkshood are just a few that can make your pets sick.

4. Insects

We don’t like bug bites — and neither do our pets.

Bee and wasp stings, spider bites and mosquito bites can happen in the summer and it’s important to watch for any unusual behaviour from our pets.

If your furry companions are vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, or have a swollen mouth or rash then you should take them to the vet.

Ticks are also a big issue and can transmit diseases, like Lyme disease, to dogs. It’s advised to check pets for ticks after they've been outside. Run your hands over your pet’s body and head to feel for any bumps you previously didn't notice. Don’t forget about the tail and in between the dog’s toes.

Another risk is heartworm, which the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association says occurs in warmer regions in Canada. The high-risk areas in Canada are southern Ontario, southern Quebec, Manitoba and the Okanagan in British Columbia.

The group says it appears that heartworms are “unable to survive at prevailing temperatures in Alberta and Saskatchewan.”

According to Jackson, heartworm is becoming a bigger deal in Canada.

“It's a parasite that's spread by mosquitoes and the egg hatches and it actually forms a worm in the bloodstream that lives in the heart of dogs,” she tells Yahoo Canada. “It can cause a variety of syndromes and diseases including a fatality in dogs, and sometimes cats too, but mostly in dogs.”

Dogs can become exhausted while they're in the water so make sure you keep an eye on them.  (Photo via Getty Images)
Don't leave your dog unattended in the water and make sure you check for any blue-green algae warnings. (Photo via Getty Images)

5. Algae blooms

Most dogs love to go swimming in the summer — but make sure you watch for any warnings about blue-green algae. The bacteria is often found in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs and can multiply in the summer months.

Dogs are especially at risk if they ingest blue-green algae. It can lead to liver and neurological problems if left untreated. Red flags to watch out for include vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, excessive drooling and respiratory problems.

6. Allergies

If you suffer from seasonal allergies then you’re not alone, our pets get them too.

Jackson says she’s seeing more pets with environmental allergies.

“It can be one to four appointments a day in the summer dealing with allergy flare,” she adds. “They're very rarely fatal, but they're very common hazards.”

Dogs aren’t the only ones who suffer from allergies, even indoor cats can be impacted when pollen gets inside through open windows and doors.

If you think your pet is suffering from allergies, take them to the vet to get examined. (Photo via Getty Images)
Even indoor cats can suffer from seasonal allergies. (Photo via Getty Images)

7. Compost

Compost is another hazard that’s common in the summer.

As compost decomposes it can form mould spores and bacteria. The mould spores may produce a powerful toxin called mycotoxin, which can affect an animal’s muscle coordination.

Jackson says to also be mindful of compost in the spring when the snow melts and exposes old food scraps.

Experts advise against giving your pet food scraps at picnics and barbecues. (Photo via Getty Images)
Foods like steak trimmings and corn cobs can be dangerous for your pets. (Photo via Getty Images)

8. Food scraps

Picnics, barbecues and campfires are all activities we tend to enjoy more in the summer. Unfortunately, many of these events centred around food can be a danger zone for our pets.

Jackson recommends watching out for any food scraps on the ground or giving any food to our pets.

Fatty foods like steak trimmings can lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the liver, while uncooked hamburger meat or chicken, as well as corn cobs, also present risks.

Make sure to properly dispose of any skewers leftover from kabobs because they can cause a serious issue if a dog swallows them.

9. Drowning

Summer season is also swimming season and while your dog may love to take a dip in the pool or beach, experts say it’s best to not leave them unattended.

Dogs can panic if they fall into the water and can also get exhausted after a long swim. Keeping an eye on your furry pals when they’re near any body of water will ensure they’re safe.

Also, be mindful when going boating and make sure your dog has an appropriate life jacket.

Keep an eye on your pup when you're out on a hike. (Photo via Getty Images)
Even activities like hiking pose certain risks for our four-legged friends. (Photo via Getty Images)

10. Hikes

If you love a good hike and bringing your pet along, be wary of certain risks.

Working in Alberta, Jackson says she sees a lot of animals who suffer from an injury they suffered while hiking.

“Cuts on the pads, sprains, and strains from overexertion or from tripping during a hike can certainly be an issue or gopher holes, tripping in a gopher hole,” she says.

Many summer risks are regional, expert says

While it may seem like there are a lot of risks to watch out for, Jackson notes that it’s important to remember risks are regional when it comes to pets.

The animal specialist says the best way to prepare for any summer plans is to make an appointment with your veterinarian beforehand.

“You really need an individual approach for every animal and that's why it's so important to have regular checkups with the vet because the advice that I would give to owner A is going to be different from the advice I would give to owner B and it really depends on where they're travelling,” she adds.

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