Summertime is here in West Michigan, and we aren’t the only ones who are excited for the warmer weather. To our furry friends, summer means green grass, swimming, long walks, playing in the backyard, dog parks, endless games of fetch, squirrel chasing, car rides with the windows down, rolling in the mud, camping, trips on the boat, special treats at a picnic, days at the beach and so much more!
Summer in Michigan really is the perfect time to be outside and, most importantly, for our pets, summer means quality time with their best friend — YOU!
With a little thought and preparation, summer can be all of these things and you can keep Spot safe, Buddy barking and Fluffy fetching. Keep the following tips in mind to avoid many common summer problems that the warm weather brings.
1. Protect against parasites. It is important to keep your pet protected from both internal and external parasites this summer. Parasites can cause weight loss, disease, diarrhea, itching, anemia and even death. I recommend using both a quality heartworm medication and a flea and tick preventative all year long. A good preventative medicine can go a long way to preventing problems and there are lots of good options available from your veterinarian. There are also vaccines available to help prevent common tickborne diseases like Lyme.
2. Watch the weather. Summer heat can become a big problem for our four-legged friends very quickly if you aren’t looking out for them. Remember that your pet cannot sweat to help cool themselves as easily as you can and some pets and specific breeds are more at risk. Exercise early or late in the day to avoid the hottest temperatures and keep sessions short. Always have water and shade available. Hot pavement can burn paws quickly and NEVER leave your pet in a car unattended. Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy panting, disorientation/weakness, vomiting and dry and/or bright red gums. These concerning symptoms should be addressed quickly before they become an emergency.
3. Save their skin. Summer months can also be very tough on our pets’ skin. Sunshine, swimming and sand make for a great day but the increase in exposure and humidity can cause problems. Not all dogs can swim, so always supervise closely when around the pool or at the beach. Do your best to clean and dry pets after swimming to avoid infection (“hot spots”) and watch for debris and discharge in their eyes and ears. Dark discharge in ears is not normal and may be a sign of infection. There are even special sunscreens available for pets with sensitive skin.
If any questions come up this summer, I encourage you to contact your veterinarian or the team at Mapleview Animal Hospital on the north side of Holland. We are taking new clients and would love to help make this the best summer ever. See you at the beach!
–Dr. Dan Shelley is a veterinarian at Mapleview Animals Hospital.