Summertime Pet Precautions and Safety Tips

Let’s deal with heat and humidity first. Everyone knows not to walk an older, overweight pug in the heat of midday, but many may not realize the key role that humidity plays in the develoment of heat stroke. Because pets have very few sweat glands located only between foot pads and around the anus, they rely on evaporating saliva off their vascular tongues as their main cooling mechanism. Heavy panting facilitates this effect, however very high humidity inhibits evaporation and can rapidly lead to heat stroke. Dogs and cats who have very flat (brachycephalic) faces are even more prone to heat stroke. Even the “relatively cooler” early morning or late evening may not be a safe time for vigorous pet exercise on days of both high heat and severe humidity. Animals can’t tell you when they are having problems, so you have to be very observant. Staying on shady paths, carrying lots of water for both your pet and you, keeping the exercise at a low level, taking breaks, and remembering that pets develop heat stroke long before people do will help to keep your pet safe.

If, in spite of all this, your pet appears to be in heat stroke distress with deep red oral mucous membranes and bloodshot whites of the eyes, severe panting and prostration, and rectal temperatures of 105-107 degrees quick action is required. Immediately soak your pet with normal temperature tap water, create evaporation from the body with a fan or fanning with towels, and begin monitoring internal rectal temperature to be sure you don’t overcool – you usually need to start drying off your pet when their rectal temperature falls to about 102-103 degrees (101.5 is normal for dogs and cats). If your pet is not recovering rapidly, especially if it is a short nosed breed like a pug or bulldog and is overweight, you may need to immediately seek emergency veterinary care.

Most dogs love splashing in water, so having a small wading pool in the back yard is a great way to keep your dog cool on a hot day. Be sure to drain the pool in the evening so it isn’t a mosquito breeding pool. Sprinklers in the yard can also work well and many dogs will love romping through the spray.

Sun exposure can sunburn light skinned breeds who have areas of exposed skin on ears, top of nose or muzzle, or the midline of the back. For extended periods in direct sun consider sunscreen on exposed skin, as prolonged sun exposure can contribute to skin cancer, and immune-mediated skin diseases. Leaving dogs in parked cars for even a short time is never a good idea, as the interior of a closed car in sunlight can reach over 140 degrees in just 10 minutes. If you must, then roll down all windows at least 4″, slide back the sun roof, find at least partial shade, leave a bowl of water on the floor, and hurry to complete your task.

Many pets are allergic to the stings of venomous insects and summer is when your curious pooch or kitty is likely to chase bees and wasps. If there is a known sting, and especially if your pet has had previous episodes of muzzle or eyelid swelling or hives from suspected stings, it makes sense to immediately give approximately 1 mg of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine is the generic name) per pound of body weight orally (eg., a 25 mg Benadryl tab or capsule for a 25 lb. cocker spaniel) and observe your pet closely. The pill form of 25 mg Benadryl can be cut to allow fairly accurate dosing. If problems develop in spite of the early Benadryl dose, seek emergency care.

Speaking of bugs, don’t forget to regularly treat your dog with products that kill ticks and fleas rapidly, and some products like Advantix and Seresto Collars additionally repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitos. Get dogs vaccinated against Lyme disease.

Many of our clients now take their pets with them on vacation. Since the pets will be in a totally unfamiliar location, make sure they are microchipped in case they wander (we still have discounted microchips and free registration available) and keep them on a long leash when they are outside. Loud noises can be very upsetting to your pets, and instinctively, they will flee from them. Consider leaving the pets at home when going to a Fourth of July celebration (more about that in the coming weeks).

It is estimated that thousands of pets drown in backyard pools and in rapidly flowing rivers and streams every year. All backyard pools need to be made inaccessible to both young children and pets. In the backyard pool, pets who can swim well need to be trained to use the ladder or a more pet-friendly type ramp needs to be installed. Don’t count on pool covers to protect your pet. Pets often think the covers are rigid enough to support their weight and end up drowning. Dogs love to jump out of boats at the most inopportune times, so life jackets for pets in boats, or by any rapidly flowing body of water is a good idea. As the picture of Benny shows, pet life jackets can be both stylish and practical and most have a strap over the back to facilitate hoisting your pet to safety.

The Pittsburgh Spay and Vaccination Clinic Staff wish your pets a happy and healthy summer!


Many kennels and doggie day cares will be requiring Canine Flu vaccines by this summer. The two strains of Canine Flu in the US are novel viruses that ALL DOGS WHO CONTACT IT WILL CONTRACT.

Social dogs who frequently go to day care, dog parks, or kennels should be immunized twice the first year, then annually. Many of our local doggie daycares and kennels have imposed a time deadline by which your dog must be immunized. To assist our clients’ compliance, if your pet has had a wellness exam within the past six months and is not obviously ill, a technician visit can be scheduled for the initial immunization and boost 2-4 weeks later.

Call our receptionists to set up a flu vaccine appointment.

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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