Texas Goes To The Dogs – Basic Pet Care For A Summer of Fun
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It’s here. It’s finally here. After a rough winter in Texas, the shorts are coming out, and white legs are flashing underneath. Yes, Texans from Austin, to Dallas, to Houston, to the tiny towns on the Eastern border are already working on their tans.
Somewhere amidst the beckoning calls of the Gulf, however, there is an equally important call for safety. Summer brings great times — trips to the water, barbecues with the neighbors, long walks in the park, vacations across the country, and, for certain patients with conditions like Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), even relief. But with those pleasures and privileges come risks, not just for ourselves, but for our pets as well.
No one is more excited about summer than our animal companions, particularly dogs. It means more outings, more car trips, more walks, more quality time with the people they love the most. There are millions of pet owners in the United States alone, and the number is growing, including those who think of their pets as children. More and more are purchasing pet health insurance along with their own policies, gourmet animal treat stores are cropping up everywhere, and it seems even the neighborhood grocery stores in Dallas and Houston are offering a wide selection of animal toys. So before making any treks — across town or across country — in temperatures already averaging above 90 F in Texas, make sure to review these summer pet care recommendations, as summarized from the Humane Society’s guidelines.
Hopefully, it goes without saying: Make sure your animal has plenty of food, water, and shade. Animals can overheat quickly, so if conditions aren’t right, death can occur within a day. Check water often; make sure it’s cool and there’s plenty of it. If your animal lives outside, secure a cool, shady spot to escape from the heat. Excessive heat is miserable for anyone — including your pets.
If you can avoid chaining your pets, do it. Being on a lead for an extended period of time can literally drive an animal insane. If chaining is a daily operation, make sure the duration of it is as short as possible, allow him or her to take frequent breaks off the lead, and make sure your pet can comfortably reach the food, water, and shade. Place all food and water away from the chain, so they are not knocked over with the animal’s movements.
Also consider alternatives. Try an obedience course. Many dogs with good training will stay exactly where they are told until further notice. Technology has advanced in recent years, making new choices available. For instance, “invisible fences” are now on the market at an affordable rate — many under a one-time investment of a few hundred dollars.
It’s tempting to take our pets, particularly our dogs, on those everyday errands. With such busy lives, a little car adventure seems an ideal way to spend time with our animal companions while still getting things done. But in temperatures like this, it’s simply not wise. The inside of a car can heat up to 120 F in minutes, even in the shade. Since dogs and cats can’t sweat, but only dissipate heat through the pads of their feet, or by panting, such temperatures — even temporarily — can prove deadly. Leave pets at home while you’re running errands, and make that special time for your animal friends when you get back.
Exercising is just as important to our animals’ health as our own. Keep an eye on the temperature. On hot days, make sure to take walks in the early morning or evening hours. Watch for signs of distress, and exercise your animal on the cool, soft grass if possible. Asphalt can heat to blistering temperatures, and can literally burn the pads of their feet. Supervise pool play, as well. Many unfortunate animal deaths have arisen from an unsecured swimming pool, which looks just as inviting to them as to us.
Watch for signs of heat exhaustion, particularly with older, short-nosed, and thick-coated dogs. Signs of danger include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, unsteadiness, staggering gait, vomiting, and a deep red or purple tongue. If heat exhaustion does occur, get your animal to a cool, shady spot immediately, pour cool water (not cold) on him or her, and place cool towels around the head, chest, and neck. Encourage your animal to drink small amounts of water at a time or to lick an ice cube. Then take your pet to the vet right away.
Summer is also a time for work — a lot of yard work. Lawn care and gardening can be relaxing and enjoyable activities, full of the rewards of a beautiful home and good produce. But exercise caution when using insecticides. Many chemicals used on the lawn and garden, as well as 700 plant species, are poisonous to animals. To make sure your pet can frolic freely, read labels and ask plenty of questions. Most insecticides come with warnings, and your local gardening store should be able to clarify any issue about which you are unsure. Choosing organic gardening supplies is a great way to reduce these risks.
A Biting Problem:
Bites are more common in the summer simply because there’s more interaction between pets and people. To reduce the risk of bites, make sure you know your animal. If he or she has any territorial or aggressive tendencies, watch your pet closely. Keep dogs leashed when away from the home, just in case. After all, it may not be your animal companion that causes the trouble; unfortunately, unleashed and aggressive animals are not an anomaly, and you’ll have better control over the situation if your pet is leashed. Spaying or neutering will also reduce aggressive and territorial tendencies.
Medications and Identifications:
Prepare for trips by making sure your animals’ vaccinations and medications are up-to-date. Heartworm is of particular concern, as the disease is transmitted through mosquito bites. Ask your vet about any over-the-counter medications first, even flea and tick medications. The size of the animal is important, as are allergies, and the manufacturing company. Unfortunately, there are unsafe products on the market.
Check ID tags or chips to make sure all the information is current — including contact information. Many pets are lost on vacation, with no way of getting home without the proper identification. With up-to-date tags or chips, however, they’re just a phone call away.
Pets are a responsibility, and we must not forget that. Their lives are in our hands every day, and they depend on us to love them, feed them, and give them water, exercise, and stimulation. But they’re also such wonderful companions, and so much fun! Take care of yourself, and take care of them. Reward them for their unconditional love and loyalty by making sure everything they need is provided for during these hot months ahead. With the proper care and preparation, it can be your best summer together yet!
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