With summer on the way, it’s a good time to think about outdoor and warm-weather safety for pets
The biggest concerns for pets are overheating and dehydration. Keep a close eye on your dog for any signs of heat stroke, including excessive panting, drooling, difficulty breathing, elevated heart rate, weakness, lethargy, vomiting and even collapse. Dogs with flat faces, like pugs and boston terriers, can overheat quickly since they cannot pant effectively. And elderly or overweight dogs are also at high risk. If your dog begins to exhibit these symptoms, it is very important to seek emergency veterinary assistance immediately as heat stroke can be fatal.
The first and most important safety tip is to never leave a pet unattended in a car. Even with the windows open, a car can heat up like a furnace in hot weather. Not only can this be life threatening for your pet, but it is also illegal in Illinois.
On all outings, make sure to provide plenty of shade for you and your pet, taking breaks often, especially on hot days. Also, offer plenty of fresh, cool water. It is best to bring your own water, since water from puddles, lakes or streams can upset your dog’s digestive system.
Be careful of walking your dog on asphalt on hot days. The asphalt absorbs heat that can burn the pads of your dog’s feet. Also, stay on grass whenever possible — walking on asphalt can elevate your dog’s body temperature.
Don’t forget car safety, a tip that is useful year-round. It is always best to secure your pet in a crate or with a safety belt in the back seat. If an accident were to occur, your pet would most likely be harmed if not contained, and airbags can injure or even kill your furry friend. Allowing your pooch to ride with his head out the window also has the risk of injury. Stones and other debris can pop up from the pavement and hit your dog in the face, causing serious harm.
Is your dog excessively nervous or overly excited in the car? Try teaching your pooch how nice it is to ride calmly in the car. It is best to use a crate in these situations. While your car is in the driveway, but not moving, give your dog a fun treat, such as a stuffable toy filled with canned food and topped off with peanut butter. This will help him associate the car with something enjoyable. Then repeat the exercise another day while taking a slow drive around the block. Always praise your dog for calm behavior. Over a couple of weeks, gradually increase your distance working up to the distance you desire. Your super excitable dog will find it hard to whine and bark while licking at his treat.
And finally, don’t forget to have proper identification for your pet just in case you get separated. Having your pet microchipped is always a good idea. ID tags on your pet’s collar are also essential. If you are traveling, you can even get a temporary tag that has your cell phone number and destination information. Having your pet properly identified greatly increases your chance of being reunited if something were to happen.
Angie Wood is executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society.