Summer means barbecues, family vacations and trips to the cottage, but for our pets it can also be a season fraught with troubles and trauma.

“Summer is a beautiful season for both people and their pets, but the hot weather is accompanied by a number of hazards we need to protect our pets from,” says Al Hickey, Western Regional Director of The Humane Society of Canada.

Here, some of the top summer safety hazards — and ways to keep pets safe and comfortable.

Heat stroke

Every summer, pets suffer from the heat, sometimes tragically, including brain damage and organ failure. According to The Humane Society of Canada, signs of excessive heat exposure in dogs include exaggerated panting, an anxious or staring expression, excessive salivating, weakness or lethargy, a lack of coordination, or convulsions, seizures or muscle tremors.

Animals more at risk of collapse or death from the heat are those who are tied up or left (even for a short time!) in poorly ventilated areas such as cars. When outside, your pet should have access to plenty of shade and fresh water. Protect delicate paws by walking your dog on the grass instead of the hot pavement. It’s a good idea to apply sunscreen to the nose and ears, particularly for dogs with light-coloured fur. And you may want to reconsider shaving long-haired dogs in the effort to keep them cooler since it increases the risk of sunburn.

Pets suffering from heat stroke can be cooled off by applying cold water to the skin or by placing them in a bathtub filled with cool water. Give small amounts of drinking water — and seek immediate veterinary attention.

Parasite control

The warm weather brings with it risks from disease-transmitting pests such as ticks, mosquitoes or fleas. Inspect your pet’s fur for insects daily, either by hand or with a specialized comb. Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, while the mosquito can carry the West Nile virus. Heartworm can be spread by mosquitoes to dogs, cats and ferrets. Fleas can transmit tapeworms to dogs and cats, as well as bartonella or cat scratch fever to cats. And fire ants are often more than just a nuisance and may cause welts and swelling for your pet.

Possible signs of infection include unusual head bobbing, lethargy and progressive weakening.

Be sure to keep your pet’s medical records up to date and give monthly medication to prevent heartworm. Over the counter medications such as insect repellents and flea collars are also available to help prevent insect bites. Refrain from using insect spray on dogs, however, because they’ll likely lick it off and ingest it.

Poisonous plants

Many garden plants such as daffodils, marigolds and avocados can be toxic if your dog or cat eats them. Other plants that can be harmful to pets include: buttercup, chokecherry, eggplant, foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, philodendron, tulip, rhubarb, English ivy and rhododendron. For more information on plants that can make your pet sick, see the ASPCA’s list of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants. Pets can also become ill from fertilizer and insecticides. Use care when applying lawn chemicals — and be sure they are not near a water dish where a pet might drink them.

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