A Pet Owner’s Guide to Summer
To most of us, summer is a time of fun adventures and memories in the making! And who better to share the sunshine with than your best furry friend? Although summer means a lot of wonderful things, pet owners have a responsibility to make sure their pets are safe and healthy in the hotter months.
Pets are treated more frequently in the summer due to their increased exposure to the outdoors. Heat related injuries, parasitic and infectious illnesses, and injuries caused by unsupervised fun are on the rise in the summer months.
The Dangers of Overheating
In Indianapolis, our hottest months are May through September with average highs above 70°F. Although the sun is highest at noon, the heat continues to build throughout the day. That means in the summer, the hottest time of day can be from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.! It’s good to keep in mind that your pets shouldn’t be left outside in the summer heat, especially between noon and 4:30 p.m.
Under the Indianapolis – Marion County Code of Ordinances, your dog “must be brought into a temperature controlled facility when the temperature is at or above 90°F” except when the dog is in visual range of a competent adult who is outside with the dog. When the temperature is at or above 80°F, a shelter “shaded by trees, a tarp, or a tarp-like device” must be provided for your dog. (Title III, Chapter 531, Article IV)
Dogs simply can’t adjust to the heat like we can, and overheating is a real danger. Dogs can naturally cool themselves by panting, which exchanges warm body temperature for cooler air outside. If the outside air isn’t significantly cooler than their body temperature, their cooling system doesn’t work and they can get heatstroke. Humidity makes this cool-down system especially difficult, as it’s harder to breathe.
Symptoms of Overheating:
|excessive panting||drooling||difficulty breathing|
|increased heart rate||weakness + lethargy||fast breathing rate|
|bloody diarrhea||pale gums||vomiting|
Brachycephalic breeds, senior pets, overweight pets, and pets with heart or lung diseases are more susceptible to heat stroke. These pets should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible. Pets with dark colored coats also tend to overheat quicker than pets with light coats.
Brachycephalic Breeds at High-Risk of Overheating
Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle!
It’s illegal in Indianapolis! Your car could be damaged, you may receive a hefty fine, and your pet could suffer from fatal heat stroke. The inside of a car can be 20 degrees hotter than the outside, even if the windows are cracked. Though it may be a breezy 70 degrees outside, your dog could be suffering in 90 degree heat.
How to Beat the Heat
- Don’t over exercise your pup, especially in the heat of the day. Instead, limit your walks to the morning and evening, when it’s cooler.
- Stay hydrated! Offer your pet plenty of fresh, cool water. Use a deep water bowl, throw in some ice, and place it in the shade. Refresh it often!
- Get it made in the shade. Tree shade, hanging tarps, and pop-up canopies are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A stuffy dog house won’t cut it, and can actually make the heat worse.
- Give them the royal treatment and make some frozen goodies! Freeze banana, plain yogurt, and peanut butter (with no xylitol) in an old ice cube tray to make easy, DIY pupsicles. You can also freeze their Kong or favorite chew toy for some cool, clean fun. And let’s not forget how much fun crunching on some ice cubes can be!
- Keep your cool with some fun water activities. A sprinkler, hose, or kiddy pool are easy, cheap ways to keep your dog cool. (Always supervise pets around a swimming pool!) Wet a bandana and stick it in the freezer to keep their neck and chest cold. You can also invest in cooling body wraps or vests for your dog that can help keep them cool on summer hikes.
Summer Grooming Solutions
A long, shaggy coat can actually help your pet in hot temperatures as long as it’s properly maintained. Some dogs have what is known as a “double coat“, with a slightly coarser outer coat and soft undercoat. Their outer coat naturally regulates their body temperature and protects their skin from the sun. The undercoat is where the problem lies in summer heat.
Without consistent brushing, the undercoat can build up and become too thick, trapping in your pet’s body heat. Weekly brushing is the answer! To get rid of that pesky undercoat, try the FURminator pet brush, but be careful not to over-brush your pet.
Feel free to trim longer hair on your pet, but don’t shave them unless your groomer recommends it and leave a good inch of hair to protect them from sunburns. Certain coats, like double coats, can be ruined by shaving and will never grow back the same way. It can also make your pet hotter than they were with their long coat!
- Make sure any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.
- Be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears. They tend to be more susceptible to skin cancer.
Don’t have the time for regular grooming and brushing?
Check out our grooming services!
Summer Parasites + Viral Infections
Summertime is the season for many common parasites and waterborne viruses. In addition to the expected seasonal increase, changes in the climate and increased interaction between humans, their pets, and the environment are causing historically high numbers of infections across the nation (among both pets and people).
Indiana has reported rising numbers of parasitic diseases and viral infections, including tick-borne diseases (like Lyme disease), heartworm (which is spread by mosquitoes), and diseases like leptospirosis and giardia. It is important now, more than ever, to protect your pet.
symptoms can include joint soreness, fever, decreased appetite, neurologic disease, and kidney disease. Increased white footed mice populations on the east coast are causing concern that this year’s risk of Lyme disease will be extremely high.
Ticks typically thrive from April to October in Indiana, but can survive the winter.
thrives in warm, wet environments. A study in 2017 showed that Marion County, Indiana has one of the highest probabilities for a pet to test positive to exposure to the leptospira bacteria.
Leptospira infections in both pets and people rise with precipitation levels, which are highest from March to July in Indiana.
are parasitic worms transmitted by mosquitos to both dogs and cats. Heartworm treatment for dogs can be very expensive and dangerous, and there is no approved treatment for heartworm disease in cats.
Mosquitos typically thrive from April to October in Indiana, but can survive in your home and sheltered areas for longer.
is common in kennels, daycares, shelters, and large cities. Because of this, it is frequently diagnosed in animals that live in downtown Indianapolis.
Giardia infections in both pets and people rise with precipitation levels, which are highest from March to July in Indiana.
Prevent Summer Parasites + Viral Infections
- The most effective way to protect your pet from parasites is year-round preventatives. Parasites can hitchhike inside on your pets, clothes, and shoes. They can stow away and live in your home for months undetected, leaving your pets at risk 12 months out of the year.
- Indoor-only pets aren’t completely safe from these pests and should be on prevention medication. In fact, 1 in 4 heartworm positive cats are considered to be indoor cats.
- Giardia and leptospirosis thrive in warm, wet environments, so don’t let your pets drink from puddles, lakes, or streams.
- Many parasites are spread through stool! Don’t let your pet eat poop, and help stop the spread of these parasites by always picking up after your pet, even in your own backyard.
To help you identify the risks in your geographic area, CAPC (The Companion Animal Parasite Council) provides Parasite Prevalence Maps down to the county level.
Read more about common parasites, symptoms of disease or infection, and more tips for avoiding them:
Summer Swimming Tips
- Never leave your pet unsupervised around a pool—not all pets are good swimmers. Introduce your pet to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on a boat.
- Keep your pets from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals. (As mentioned above, lake water and creek water can be bad for your pet’s health too.)
- Always rinse your pet after swimming to remove chlorine, salt, and dangerous algae.
- Keep an eye on your pet’s ears, as they are more likely to develop ear infections after swim time.
Beware Prevalent Summer Poisons
- Commonly used rodenticides, lawn fertilizer, and garden insecticides can be harmful to pets if ingested. Keep these poinsons as well as citronella candles, tiki torch products, and insect coils of out pets’ reach.
- Make sure the plants in your garden and yard are safe for pets!
- Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance.
Be Cautious with Fireworks
- Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations. Many pets are fearful of loud noises and can become lost, scared, and disoriented.
- Never use fireworks around pets! Exposure to lit fireworks can result in severe burns or trauma, and unused fireworks contain hazardous materials.
- When fireworks are going off in your neighborhood, create a quiet, sheltered, and escape-proof area for your pet.
- Be considerate of your neighbors and their pets! Don’t set off fireworks close to homes or after set noise ordinances.
Prevent Common Summertime Injuries
- Open, unscreened windows pose a real danger to pets, who often fall out of them. Keep unscreened windows and doors closed, and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.
- If the pavement is too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws, which can burn and become raw. If you can’t avoid walking your dog across hot pavement, invest in a product that protects their feet. If your dog doesn’t like the feel of protective coverings like boots, try a topical product such as Musher’s Secret, which creates a protective wax barrier between your dog’s paws and the sidewalk.
- Not only is it not a good idea to drive around with your dog in the bed of a truck, it’s illegal. The hot truck bed can burn paws quickly, plus dogs can fall out and be injured or killed in an accident.