Summer can be dangerous for pets.
Hot cars, swimming pools with steep sides or waterfront docks, and picnics where dogs can sneak a helping of raisins or grapes – tasty to you but potentially poisonous to your animal friend – all pose a problem, say veterinarians who work in critical care.
Popular summertime activities like watersports, plus increased temperatures and humidity, also up the potential for cats or dogs to be injured or even killed, said Dr. Lynel Tocci, an animal critical care vet in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
While many hazards to animals lurk year-round, there are potential pet danger zones you should be aware of as summer moves in.
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Swimming pools, docks and canals: People assume dogs can swim so they’re safe around water, Tocci said. While most pooches can paddle a bit, they can injure themselves or drown while frantically trying to climb out of a steep-sided pool or up a barnacle-covered sea wall.
Tocci advises residents who have pools to “drown-proof” their pooches by wading into the water with them and training them to seek out the steps. Pool fences also are a good idea, she said.
If you’re a watersports fan, make sure to outfit your pets with life jackets if they are going to be spending time on boat or docks, she said.
Hot cars: “Heat stroke from leaving animals in the car is a big deal,” Tocci said. “Cracking the window isn’t going to work.”
The problem is compounded by people traveling more with their pets, she said.
When it’s 85 degrees outside, temperatures inside a car can soar to 102 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Your pet can suffer irreversible organ damage or die.
Prevention is simple. Just don’t leave your dog or cat in a car this summer.
High-rise balconies: Be careful about leaving your condo balcony door open to catch a summer breeze. Tocci said she recently treated a cat that jumped off a ninth-floor patio after being accidentally left outside.
While this kitty amazingly survived with little more than a broken leg, another pet wasn’t so fortunate. A blind dog brought to Tocci’s hospital died from a balcony fall.
High-rise dwellers must make sure their railings are high enough, and bars or screening secure enough, before letting their pets onto the balcony.
Your home: Food, plants and medications are among the common household items that can injure or poison pets, said Dr. Stacey West, a vet in Boca Raton who has worked in animal emergency care. Raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and garlic are toxic to dogs.
Lilies are poisonous to cats, and the objects they play with, like yarn, can cause potentially fatal intestinal blockages if swallowed.
“I always tell people that they need to treat their pets like they are toddlers. They will go after anything,” West said.
Your yard and neighborhood: When outdoors, be on the lookout for poisonous Bufo toads, snakes and rat bait or garbage like chicken bones that someone may have thrown in the grass. If your pet is vomiting, has diarrhea, is not eating or is in pain, call your veterinary immediately, West said.
For a list of items that are toxic to pets, call 800-213-6680, or go to petpoisonhelpline.com. Online information is free, but there is a one-time $49 fee for a phone consultation.
Places that are fun for humans, but not necessarily for pets: Chances are good your pooch would rather stay home than get overheated or stepped on at a loud, hot, crowded art festival or outdoor concert, Tocci said.
She said she regularly treats injuries incurred at dog parks. So if you go, make sure your dog is well socialized and leashed and watch out for canine bullies, Tocci said.
Oh, and if you are one of those pet parents who has a full wardrobe for your furkid? Don’t leave your sharp-dressed dog unattended. West treated one that managed to get tangled in its outfit, rolled off a bed and broke its leg.
During one of West’s more interesting emergency room shifts, she said she treated four dogs in one night for marijuana toxicity. “I guess they like to eat it,” she said. Another time, she tended to a puppy sickened by inhaling pot smoke.
So remember, your idea of a good time may not be so great for your pet.