Vets Promote Summer Safety To Pet Owners

Veterinarians should be proactive and communicate with clients about summer safety.


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With summer around the corner, veterinarians and animal organizations are preparing pet owners for the hot days to come.

A lot of summer safety warnings concern how to beat the heat and prevent heat stroke. But other health concerns also loom, says Louise Murray, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, director of medicine for the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York.

High-rise syndrome is a big concern, especially in Manhattan, she says. When the weather warms up, people open their windows, many of which don’t have screens. Cats (and even some dogs) looking out the window may slip or try to catch a leaf or butterfly floating by.

“It is incredibly common,” Dr. Murray says, adding that they see about a case or more every day.

If the fall doesn’t kill them, it usually causes severe injuries like ruptured lungs, multiple fractured limbs and fractured jaw, or even all of the above, she says.

Veterinarians need to spread the word about window screens, Murray says.

“You wouldn’t leave a window open for your kids., Why would you for your cats?” she adds.

Veterinarians should be proactive and communicate with clients about summer safety, says Armelle de Laforcade, DVM, Dipl. ACVECC, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, Emergency / Critical Care at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Client education is everything,” she says.

Dr. de Laforcade also works at the school’s Foster Hospital for Small Animals, which sees from 25 to 45 emergency cases a day in the summer.

Most summer injuries are related to heat or trauma, she says. The warm weather brings more dogs outside, increasing the likelihood of getting hit by a car. There is also a greater incidence of animal to animal interaction, which can lead  to dog fights.

De Laforcade says a pet’s wounds should be checked regardless of how small it may seem. It’s better to err on the side of safety, she adds.

Pet owners also need to keep up with heartworm medications, flea/tick control and vaccinations, leptospirosis being one of them, she says.

“Veterinarians need to start incorporating [leptospirosis] in their vaccination protocol and owners need to be aware that dogs that run around in the woods are exposed to leptospirosis,” she says. “It’s one of those diseases that we can treat but we can also work to prevent.”

Sun protection is another important component to summer safety, says Michael Fleck, DVM, of the Animal Medical Center of Bradenton, Fla.

Dr. Fleck, also a human esthetician, recently launched Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray, the first pet sunscreen that complies with U.S. Food & Drug Administration standards.

Fleck worked with the FDA for two years to bring the product to market and continues to work with the FDA to determine a SPF similar to that of human sunscreen. However, Fleck says the product probably is about 30-45 SPF human equivalent.

The sunscreen, which is pH-balanced for pet skin, is designed for dogs and horses, and a cat product is in the works.

Pet owners need to be aware that hairless dogs or dogs that are light colored, have short fur or have white or pink skin are susceptible to sunburn, Fleck says. Also, some breeds have a higher propensity to skin tumors, such as boxers, Weimaraners and Dobermans.

Sunscreen is important year-round and should especially be applied to the muzzle, around the eyes, ears, chest, armpits and groin areas, Fleck says.

Other summer pet products include soothing shampoos and conditioners, sunglasses and booties to protect paw pads from hot asphalt.

There are also various products to help cool down a pet, such as cooling beds, vests and collars.

Examples include the Cool Vest from Gramercy Distribution Inc., made of a special fabric that absorbs and retains water and cools through evaporation, and the KoolCollar by KoolCollar4Dogs, which can be filled with ice or a freezer insert.

Some products are geared specifically for water safety, such as pet life jackets, pool ramps to help dogs escape the water should they accidentally fall in and water safety alarms.

For instance, the Safety Turtle, a product by Terrapin Communications, consists of a small sensor that attaches to the pet’s collar and a base station. When the alarm is immersed in water (as when a pet falls into a pool or off a boat), a loud alarm sounds to alert the owner.

Overall, pet owners have a variety of products to choose from to keep their pets cool and to increase their comfort. But Murray says still urges caution.

“Anyway you can keep your pet cool in the summer is good, but it is important not to rely on something in a situation that could potentially be dangerous. You wouldn’t leave your dog in a car because it had a cooling collar on. …Certainly those things don’t replace just good common sense.”

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