There is nothing better than getting outside and enjoying the warm weather and sunshine with your pet. Whether you’re basking in the sun with your cat, or hitting the lake with your dog, there is so much fun to be had throughout the spring, summer and fall in Memphis and across the Mid-South.
As the shades come on and we enter our summer mindset, it is easy for our guard to fall. But when we involve our pets in our outdoor, warm-weather activities, it is critical that we keep their health and safety front of mind. Our team spoke with our shelter veterinarian, Dr. Mary Manspeaker, about common summertime questions to help you keep your animal safe in the warm weather!
Should I let my dog swim in lakes, pools or other bodies of water?
Dr. Manspeaker’s short answer is – yes! But, there are a few things you should do first. Just like with children, it’s important to make sure your dog knows how to swim. The skill comes more naturally to some breeds than others. Try practicing for short periods of time in a controlled environment until you feel your animal is comfortable and confident in the water.
If you have a pool, never allow your dog to swim unmonitored. Like humans, dogs can fall into the pool and become disoriented – which can lead to drowning. Only allow them to enter the pool with your expressed permission and vigilance.
When preparing to swim, make sure you know the body of water. Small ponds like those at Shelby Farms Park shouldn’t pose a risk to dogs. But larger bodies of water may have predators, like snakes and alligators, that could pose a serious threat to your dog. Be vigilant any time you’re playing with your animal in a body of water.
When boating with your dog, Dr. Manspeaker recommends taking precautions like purchasing a doggie life vest. This will protect your animal in the unlikely case there is a boating accident or if the dog falls overboard.
Carefully monitor your dog’s activity level. Swimming is serious exercise! Some dogs like labs or retrievers will literally swim after a ball or stick until they reach exhaustion, which poses a drowning risk. It’s better to cut the game short to ensure they aren’t overtired.
Should you be worried if your dog drinks out of a pond or lake? Dr. Manspeaker says not to worry. Though there have been cases of bacterial strains in still bodies of water, the cases are few and far between. She does say that owners should keep dogs from lapping up water out of small puddles, which accumulate motor oil, toxins and bacteria much more quickly.
I have an indoor/outdoor cat. How can I make sure they’re safe on especially hot days?
According to Dr. Manspeaker, the best thing to do for an indoor/outdoor cat in the summer is to bring them inside. There are several reasons this is a good idea. First, feeding an animal outside can attract bugs and other pests that you don’t want your animal consuming – and these pests are much more prevalent in the warmer months. Second, the heat can be dangerous for your cat – especially if they can’t find shade or burn their paws on hot pavement. Third, while cats can reproduce year-round, they are more likely to look for a mate in the summer months. You can prevent summer lovin’ by spaying/neutering your cat and keeping them inside the home. Bringing them inside full time is a much better option for your pet and for your neighborhood!
Is heatstroke a serious concern for dogs and cats?
Yes – Dr. Manspeaker says that heatstroke and heat-related illness is something to take very seriously. In general, keep your animals indoors during the heat of the day. If you must take your dog or cat outside during mid-day, make sure you find plenty of shade, take breaks if you’re doing an activity and bring plenty of fresh water. The threat is increased for dogs, mostly because they are more likely to participate in activities with their owners that could increase the risk of heatstroke. If you notice any signs of heatstroke – trouble getting up, vomiting, aversion to drinking, stumbling or fever – take your animal to the emergency vet immediately.
Should I protect my dog’s feet when we go for walks in the summer?
Blacktops and sidewalks can be scorching during the heat of the summer. It’s very easy for your animal’s paw pads to burn if you’re walking them while there is intense sunlight outside. If your dog is especially cooperative, Dr. Manspeaker says that protective footwear is a good option. For most dogs, it’s best to skip the footwear and opt for an early morning or evening walk when the pavement and overall weather is cooler.
My pet is ESPECIALLY stinky in the summer. Should I be bathing them more often?
Dr. Manspeaker says – it depends on the animal. Cats are self-cleaners, and they should rarely be bathed, if ever. Unless they’ve gotten into something foul, she does not recommend bathing your cat (for your well-being and theirs). Dogs can be bathed more regularly, but weekly and even monthly baths with shampoo are not necessary. Many dogs have natural oils on their skin that keep them hydrated, and shampoos can strip that away, leading to unnecessary itching. Talk with your vet about your dog’s specific breed, fur and skin to determine how often you should be bathing your animal.