Dr. Laurie Hess is our resident exotics expert and contributes regularly on the Our Site. For more from Dr. Hess, find her on Facebook!
Summer – time to go outside in the sunshine, breathe fresh air, picnic with friends, and take our pets outside to enjoy the weather, too. All sounds wonderful, until a pet becomes ill, injured, or escapes. How can we prevent summertime mishaps with our pets? Here are a few tips to help keep pets safe:
Beat the Heat
If you have a rabbit, guinea pig, chinchilla or other fuzzy creature that is not used to being outside in the heat, be sure to provide him or her with plenty of shade and lots of fresh water so that he or she doesn’t overheat in hot weather. Since that these animals originate genetically from cold climates where they have to keep warm, they were bred to have thick fur coats that retain heat, and they don’t have sweat glands like other mammals to release heat. So, it is essential that these pets not be left for long in direct sunlight or inside an unventilated car in summer; he or she will surely overheat and could easily die.
If you plan to bring your exotic pet outside, be sure to keep him or her in a safe carrier or enclosure so that he or she doesn’t escape or isn’t attacked by wild animals. Remember, ferrets and birds can wriggle out of harnesses easily, and even slow moving reptiles can scurry away more quickly than you’d imagine and hide. These pets need to be kept safe in enclosures with tight fitting lids that can’t pop off when animals push against them. Most importantly, NEVER leave your exotic pet unattended outside, even in a carrier, no matter how safe you think he or she is, because wild predators who can break open carriers are lurking everywhere; all it takes is just a second for these animals to attack and make your pet a victim.
Prevent Unwanted Flight
Never, ever bring a flighted bird outside without having it in a well-ventilated carrier or clipping its wings. One gust of wind, and that bird could be gone. You never think it’s going to happen with your bird, but no one ever does. Every summer, one or two of my clients have their birds fly away unexpectedly, and they lose these birds forever. Wing trimming is one option to prevent your bird from flying if you are going to bring him or her outside. Different people have different philosophies about wing trimming. I support wing trimming, as every year, I see numerous birds not only fly away, but also fly into walls, windows, mirrors, ceiling fans, and even into pots of boiling water or into cups of hot coffee. Some of these birds are gravely injured. Wing trimming is like a haircut; it’s not painful and grows back in a few months. So, if you take your bird outside only in summer, to prevent flight temporarily, you might consider trimming the wings only during warm months when your bird might go outside.
If your furry pet normally lives outside in a hutch or another enclosure, be sure to keep his or her litter and bedding dry and clean, especially during the heat of summer. Flies like to lay eggs that develop into larvae (maggots) in damp, soiled environments, and larvae love to live in moist folds of skin and small wounds on pets living outside. As larvae develop into adult flies, they produce toxins that can damage and kill healthy skin and the muscles and tissues that are beneath it, ultimately leading to potentially life-threatening systemic (whole-body) infections. So, leaving used litter or bedding around in your pet’s cage when it is warm outside for long periods may lead to serious infections and death. Daily litter changes and spot-cleaning to remove moist bedding from outdoor enclosures are essential to preventing fly-strike.
Chip to Travel
If you are planning to travel with your pet this summer, whether you are going by car, plane, or train, you may want to consider having your pet microchipped. Generally, microchipping is a simple, safe, one-time procedure performed in both birds and mammals, and it can be the only way to link a rescued pet to its owner so that the animal can be returned home. A microchip is a small implant about the size of a grain of rice that is safely placed under the skin either over the pet’s back (in a mammal) or in the breast muscle (in a bird). The microchip is labeled with a unique number that identifies a particular pet and can be read via a radiofrequency-controlled scanner most veterinarians and animal shelters have. If you’re not sure whether microchipping is right for your pet, be sure to talk to your veterinarian.
Summertime can be fun for both people and pets. Follow these basic warm weather tips, and both you and your exotic pet can enjoy this summer without a hitch!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Pets in hot weather: Dogs
One of the most life-threatening mistakes people can make is to leave a dog in a vehicle in hot weather. Dogs can’t perspire, as humans do, to cool themselves off via evaporation, so they have to pant to cool themselves. If the air that they are taking in is too hot (as it is in a parked car in hot weather), then panting has little cooling effect and the dog quickly overheats.
Many people think their dog will be OK if they leave the windows open, but even with the windows wide open, the car can quickly become hot enough to cause heatstroke, brain damage, and even death. Your pet may pay dearly for even a few minutes spent in a sweltering car. And you should never let your dog ride in an open pickup truck, but it’s especially dangerous in hot weather, since truck beds are often dark colors, which get very hot. Please leave your pets at home during hot weather.
Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting that does not resolve as the pet rests, increasing distress, a tongue color that is dark red to almost purple, weakness or collapse, hyper-salivation, vomiting and labored breathing. If you suspect a dog or cat is suffering from heat stroke, move him to a cooler environment immediately and apply cool water to the abdomen, ears and foot pads. Don’t pour ice water over the whole animal, submerge him in a tub of cold water or cover him in a cold, wet blanket. Once he is stable, get him to a vet as quickly as possible, even if he seems to be cooling down and his temperature seems normal. Things may be happening on the inside that are not obvious from the outside.
If you walk your dog on lead, keep in mind that asphalt can get very hot during the summer. In fact, it can get hot enough to burn a dog’s pads, causing him pain for days. You might want to do only short walks early in the morning or later in the evening, when the temperatures are lower. Before taking your dog for a walk, check the ground for hotness with one of your own hands or bare feet. If you can’t keep your hand (or foot) on the ground for more than three seconds, it’s probably too hot to walk your furry friend. Dogs who are older or overweight, have a thick coat or have a pushed-in nose (such as bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs) are especially at risk of overheating. On walks, bring water for both you and your pet, or a collapsible bowl if there’s a water source on your route.
Providing water for your dog is always important, but it’s especially critical during hot weather. If your dog is inside during the day, make sure you supply fresh, cool water that remains in a shaded spot throughout the day, since sun coming through a window can heat a bowl of water. Most dogs won’t drink hot water no matter how thirsty they are.
If your dog stays outside during the day, make sure his water bowl isn’t in a place where he will tip it over. Water bowls can be tipped over by dogs trying to make a cool spot to lie down. If necessary, buy a tip-proof water bowl. Also, make sure he has a shady place where he can get relief from the sun. Kiddie pools are a nice way to give dogs their own clean puddle in which to play.
Grooming all dogs, even dogs with short coats, helps to keep them comfortable as the seasons change. A natural coat that has been groomed offers protection from sunburn and acts as cooling insulation. Shaving your dog’s coat will take away that protection. If you give your dog a close cut for summer, she may need protection from the sun, so consult a veterinarian about whether your pet needs a pet-approved sunscreen on exposed areas. Dogs with bald patches or minimal coats may need sunscreen, as well as Nordic breeds of dogs, who are prone to auto-immune-related sun diseases.
Tip #3 Avoid the sun when walking your dog
If you can, avoid walking your dog during the hottest part of the day when the sun is out. Instead, try to walk him early in the morning or after the sun sets in the evening. When you do take your dog for a walk, be careful to avoid burning his paws. Here's some great Tips On Keeping Paws Safe In Hot Weather. When going outside, you may want to have this great evaportive cooler vest to help your dog keep cooler in the summer. Don't use ice directly on your pet it could lead to shock.
Warm Weather Care for Exotic Pets
As our weather turns to hot and humid it is important to remember that our exotic friends need to be kept cool just like a dog or a cat would need to be. In fact, guinea pigs and chinchillas are much more prone to heat exhaustion than a dog or a cat because they originated from the cold Andes Mountains of South America.
If you take your pet outside in the summer, please make sure they are in a cool, shaded environment with access to plenty of cool, fresh water and a place to hide. If your pet is allowed to graze on the lawn, be aware of any neighbors spraying chemicals on their lawn as this may wash into your yard and cause the grass and clovers to become toxic. Also be aware of any potentially poisonous plants that you have growing on your property. For a list of plants that may be toxic, please check here.
If you house your rabbits outside in a hutch, it is important to clean their cages daily. You should also make sure that there are no feces or plant material stuck in their fur as this attracts flies that will lay eggs on your pet’s skin. Be diligent to ensure that they have access a cool, shaded place to hide and fresh, cool water.
Summer often means traveling. If you are transporting or traveling with your exotic pet, keep their cage or carrier out of direct sunlight and in a cool, shaded part of the car with the air conditioner running. You may want to cover the cage or carrier with a towel/blanket and place a few ice packages against the cage to keep it even cooler. As with all pets (and children), avoid leaving your pet in the car unsupervised, especially if the car is not running. The temperature in your car can rise more than 10 degrees in just minutes.
If you ever have any questions about the care or health of your pet, do not hesitate to give us a call at (410) 777-5309
Warm weather tips for pets
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - From Pets Fur People:
With the arrival of warmer weather, your pets will undoubtedly want to spend more time outdoors. The extreme heat during the summer months poses a deadly threat to animals.
If you leave your dog outside (in a fenced yard, of course), make certain to provide them with plenty of fresh water and adequate shade from the sun. Thoughtless cruelty is often inflicted on many dogs which are left by their owners in parked cars. Ten minutes in a parked car could be too long on a hot day. By then, the temperature inside the car could reach 160 degrees. That's hot enough to cause a dog to suffer a heat stroke. Pets don't perspire as people do. They cool themselves by panting. With only very hot air to breathe, your pets could suffer permanent brain damage within moments. If emergency care is not given, your pet could die.
Heatstroke, characterized by excessive panting and salivation, lethargy, vomiting, an anxious or staring expression, a fast pulse rate and high body temperature, can cause brain damage and even death. If you should notice these symptoms in your pet, act quickly by immersing the animal in cool water or pouring cool water over the animal. You can also put ice packs on the animal's head. As soon as the animal cools off, take it to your veterinarian for medical attention. The best treatment for heatstroke is, of course, prevention. They may want to come along, but it's much kinder to leave your pets at home with plenty of fresh, cool water and shade.
Strenuous activity and excitement should be avoided on warm days. Plenty of fresh, cool water should always be available for your dog or cat. Refill the water dish frequently and keep the dish in a shaded spot. If your dog is tied outdoors, be sure he can reach the shade and his water dish. One of the most frequent complaints received concerns the dog owner who ties his dog outdoors on such a short lead that the poor dog can get no exercise, and in many cases, cannot even sit or lie down. Be sure to check your pet's water dish at least three times a day. Summer months are here, school is out and children will play with their pets, sometimes knocking over the water dish.
Check your pets regularly for fleas and ticks, which are more common in hot weather. If your pet wears a flea collar, inspect it weekly to make certain that he isn't allergic to the collar and that it's comfortable. For flea and tick control to be effective, your pet's entire environment must be treated, including the yard. Never use flea control products for dogs on cats, as they may ingest the powerful chemicals while grooming.
A simple rule is take care of your pets just like you take care of your children or yourself.