On Cape Cod

Keeping your pet's summertime cool   (Original Article)

By CANDACE HAMMOND, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

After you've taken your bathing suit out from the back of the closet and recovered from that shock, you might want to turn your attention to keeping your pets comfortable, healthy and safe for the summer.

We humans slather on the sunscreen (hopefully) and we keep bottles of water close at hand, but we tend to forget that dogs, cats and even pets like rabbits need some extra help staying safe and healthy during these warmer months.

One of the most dangerous places for your pet in the summer is right inside your own car. It doesn't have to be 100 degrees out to be dangerous, because your car can act like its own little greenhouse and heats up quickly. On an 85 degree day, a car can heat up to 120-130 degrees in less than 30 minutes - even with the windows cracked.

Heather Donnelly, animal care and adoption center manager of the MSPCA in Centerville, says that it's important to keep safety in mind when traveling with your pet.

''It's something we really need to be aware of this time of year. Animals shouldn't be left in cars,'' she says.

For dog owners with trucks, it is important for them to know that it is the law that dogs must be restrained when traveling in the bed of a truck. Donnelly says that animals need to be either in a crate or secured with cross-tied tethers to keep them from jumping out or being thrown in the event of an accident.

Lots of pet owners like their pets to come along with them as they pursue their summer activities, but special consideration is needed to keep them safe.

''Just as it's important for people to wear flotation devices when boating, it's important for pets, too,'' says Donnelly. ''Lots of the pet life preservers come with a handle on top making it easy to lift the dog onto the boat.''

For that day at the outer beach, if you want Fido to come, make sure you've prepared for it says Donnelly.

''Make sure there is adequate shade and that you bring plenty of clean water for them.''

What about sunscreen? Do pets need to lather up with some SPF 30?

''Most dogs are protected by their fur, but some breeds, like the Chinese crested, need to have their skin protected,'' she says.

But don't reach for the Coppertone, she warns. Buy a product made for animals from your vet or a pet supply store.

Around the house there are also precautions you need to take. When you're getting ready to weed and feed that lawn, it's a good idea to think twice about what you're putting on the grass where your pets will be frolicking.

Dr. Tom Burns, president of Cape Cod Veterinary Associates, says pet owners should be very cautious about the products they use on their lawns.

''In England they did a study that showed dogs that lived in areas with heavy use of herbicides had two times the cases of bladder cancer,'' he says.

Burns says to check the labels on lawn products to make sure they are pet safe.

Cats and dogs aren't the only animals we need to look out for. Other pets, like rabbits need special care in the summer, too.

Rabbits that live in hutches outdoors should be kept in the shade and given adequate water to keep hydrated, says Donnelly.

''One thing you can do for them is to freeze water in soda bottles, and place them in their cage for them to lie against. It will keep them cool,'' she says.

None of us likes ticks and fleas and the best thing to do, according to Donnelly, is to see your vet to get the proper medication for your pet. She says the medications are strong so it's important to make sure you have the right dose for the size and age of your pet.

According Dr. Burns, it is imperative for the health of your pet to treat them for these pests.

''We're having a good tick season,'' Burns says. ''Pets are susceptible to tick-borne diseases just like humans, and it's not just Lyme disease. We've also seen Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis.''

Burns believes Frontline Plus is the best brand on the market.

The biggest mistake people make when using these treatments says Burns is taking a dog swimming or bathing them either right after applying the medication, (which is placed between the shoulder blades) or applying it to a wet animal, therefore diluting or removing it entirely.

''Make sure you're applying it to a dry dog, and don't let them get wet for two days,'' he says.

A relatively new concern to the Cape is rabies. Burns says that not only should owners keep their pets' inoculations up to date, but they should be careful about not letting them run off-leash. Cats that hunt and dogs that wander can consume the remains of infected wild animals and bring the disease home.

Despite these concerns, Burns and Donnelly say that with some planning and precautions that you and your pet can have a safe and fun summer.

And the best thing for those lucky dogs? They get to have all that summer fun without ever putting on a bathing suit.

(Published: May 26, 2005)