Summer is here, bringing barbeques, blue skies and baseball. It’s a great time of year for you and your pet to enjoy some sunshine and quality time with friends and family. Along with its carefree reputation, though, summer presents unique safety risks for your four-legged friend. Follow these tips to keep your pet happy and healthy throughout the warm weather.

Things that go boom! Fireworks are a blast for people, but for all your pet knows, those explosions mean the end of the world! Leave your pooch at home when the family heads to the fireworks show, and take him out to relieve himself before the festivities begin to prevent any accidents later on. To prevent terrified runaways, keep all pets inside during local fireworks shows. Try soothing nervous pets by closing windows and curtains, playing soft music, and giving them access to a safe place, such as a kennel or a cat bed tucked away in the closet. For extreme cases, ask your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications, or try a swaddling wrap such as a Thundershirt.

Flee, fleas! These pesky insects can cause more misery than just itchy bites. Flea allergy dermatitis results from sensitivity to flea saliva, and can drive your pet to scratch himself to the point of hair loss and scabbing. Another unwanted gift from the flea is tapeworms; pets can get them while grooming by swallowing a flea infected with tapeworm larvae. To fend off these pests, treat your pets for fleas beginning in early spring and throughout the summer. Vacuum your home and wash pet beds regularly.

A hot dog is no laughing matter. When people get hot, we sweat. Cats and dogs don’t have that ability; instead, they shed heat through panting and through the dilation of blood vessels near the face. When these strategies aren’t enough, your pet can quickly develop life-threatening heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include frantic panting, drooling, glassy eyes, collapse, seizures, and bloody diarrhea and vomiting. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, get her out of the heat, cover her with a cold, wet towel, and get her to the vet as soon as possible.

Don’t take your dog for that afternoon jog! To prevent heat stroke, keep your pet in the cool shade or air-conditioning during the hottest part of the day, and don’t allow him to overexert himself. Some pets are more susceptible than others to heat stroke, including older or overweight animals, those with thick coats, large dogs, and pets with short snouts, such as bulldogs and Persian cats.

Just say no to pets left in cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration , the internal temperature in cars parked in direct sunlight can hit 172 degrees. Even on a day with 60 degree temperatures, car temperatures can rise above 110 degrees. Don’t leave your pet in a parked car, even for a few minutes. If you encounter a pet who has been left in a parked car, please attempt to reach the owner by asking nearby stores to page them, and call your local police.

These treats aren’t for sharing. Most folks know that chocolate is poisonous for cats and dogs. But a whole slew of other people treats are harmful for your pet.  The ASPCA  lists toxic foods that include garlic, onion, caffeine, grapes, raisins, xylitol, yeast dough, raw or undercooked meat, bones and eggs, alcohol, avocado, macadamia nuts, milk and salt. At barbeques and picnics, bring a bowl of your pet’s own food and leave the guacamole for the humans to enjoy.

There’s no place like home. Summer festivals, concerts and vacations may be enjoyable for certain pets, such as easygoing, gregarious dogs, but not all pets will appreciate being dragged along. If you plan to be off enjoying yourself for most of a day or longer, make arrangements for a neighbor, friend or pet sitter to stop by your house and take care of your pet. If you do take your pet to outdoor events, don’t forget to bring water and a dish for her to drink out of. And bear in mind your pet’s sensitive hearing when attending rock concerts—the loud music can result in hearing loss, just as it can in humans.

While it’s true that there are potential dangers lurking at every sunny event, most of these are easily avoided with a little knowledge and planning ahead. Whether you bring him along or leave him at home, be considerate towards your pet so that you can both relax and enjoy the dog days of summer. —Meredith Southard

An animal lover since she could shriek the word “doggie,” Meredith Southard has written for national and statewide publications on topics such as wildlife rehabilitation and rescue, conservation dogs, and the animals of Ohio’s wetlands. On warm spring nights she can be found traipsing around vernal pools with a flashlight, looking for salamanders and frogs.

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