Don’t be fooled by repeated references to the dog days of summer. While sunny skies and a surge in outdoor activities can brighten pets’ spirits, the season also raises an extended set of concerns among pet owners.
Avoiding heat stroke. Taking Fido on his first road trip. Getting rid of that pesky set of fleas in your backyard.
The topics are daunting, but manageable. With the help of some local experts, we’ve created a guide to dealing with your four-legged friends in the summer.
You don’t even have to give up that tempting game of Frisbee.BUGS , BUGS, BUGS
• Suffering a flea problem after not treating your animal during the winter months? “There is not a quick fix,” said Dr. Shannon Wylie of Double Churches Animal Clinic in Columbus.
• A severe flea situation can take two to three months to cure, she added. Make sure you’re treating not only the animal but the environment where the fleas live — everything from your dog’s bed to areas outside the home.
• Fleas are especially prevalent in shaded outdoor spaces, Wylie said.
• Both dogs and cats should be treated year-round for heartworm, Dr. David Mikoloski of Animal Emergency Center in Columbus, said, citing a dramatic cost difference between prevention and treatment. Prevention is about $40 for six months of medicine, whereas one round of heartworm treatment is $500-$1,500.
• If you’re spraying your home with pesticides during the summer, keep your dogs away from the sprayed areas.WATER SPORTS
• Should dogs play in the family pool? “I think supervised is OK,” said Dr. Rene Lefranc of 2nd Avenue Animal Hospital in Columbus.
• But remember that too much chlorine can be harmful to a pet’s skin, so rinse down your animal after he’s done swimming.
• Also, water in an animal’s ear can lead to infection, so consider investing in a pair of pet ear plugs. And make sure your four-legged friend isn’t using pool water as his primary drinking supply.
• As always, if your pet is mingling at the family barbecue, keep him away from human food — especially bones.AVOIDING HEAT STROKE
• It’s important to take your animals outside in the early morning or late afternoon in order to escape the day’s peak temperatures.
• “Remember that pavement is hot. We wear shoes, they don’t,” advised Marilu Novy, coordinator of programs and volunteer services for PAWS Columbus.
• Make sure you always have water available for your animal, and that you refill the water dish often. “Bacteria will grow in the water during the hotter months,” said TJ Martin, assistant director of the Muscogee County Humane Society.
• Hiking with a dog? Bring water, and let your four-legged friend wear a moistened neckerchief, recommended Dr. David Mikoloski of Animal Emergency Center in Columbus.
• Animals suffering from heat stroke can appear lethargic, comatose and may even suffer seizures. Call your vet immediately if you’re concerned.
• Breeds with smashed-in faces — Pugs, Shih Tzus, Boxers — are less equipped to deal with the heat because of their breathing structures.
• If you think your pet is hot, give him lukewarm — not ice cold — water, Martin advised. “You can put the body into a shock,” she said of treating one extreme temperature with another extreme.ON THE ROAD
• Traveling with an animal is OK, but make sure to take frequent breaks while on the road. “Remember that you can’t leave your animal, whether it’s a dog or a cat, in a shut, locked car,” Marilu Novy, of PAWS Columbus, emphasized.
• Many major hotel chains have become more pet friendly. Visit Web sites like www.petswelcome.com and www.bestpetfriendlyhotels.net to help determine your lodging arrangements.
• Flying the friendly skies? Policies vary by airline carrier — check your carrier’s Web site prior to assuming it’s OK to bring an animal along.
• Make sure you have your pet’s important health documents handy while you’re on your trip.
• If you’re treating a pet with a sedative while traveling, experiment with that sedative prior to leaving to the vacation, vets recommend. You’ll find out if the dosage is adequate, and learn of any potential side effects.