[June 19, 2014; Philadelphia, PA] – With the official start of summer just around the corner, veterinarians at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital offer the following tips to keep pets healthy and cool during the hot days ahead:

  1. panting dog, hot weather tips, Penn VetDo not leave your pet alone in your car – vehicles heat up quickly in the sun, and animals left in them can succumb to heat stroke within minutes. Heat stroke is life threatening for both dogs and cats. Signs to watch for include heavy, loud breathing; a staggering gait; a bright red tongue or gum tissue; vomiting; diarrhea (sometimes blood); or changes in mentation and even seizures. If heat stroke is suspected, bring the animal to a cool place, put cold compresses on its belly, or wet it down. Because this is a medical emergency, take your pet to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
  2. Brachycephalic (short-headed) dogs, particularly Bulldogs, and dogs with upper airway disease are particularly susceptible to over-heating during hot, humid days. To prevent your dog from overheating, do not exercise it in hot weather. If you want to run or walk with your dog, do it in the cool hours of the early morning or late evening. And be careful when walking your dog on hot pavement, as it can sometimes burn their footpads.
  3. Dogs and cats need a cool, shady place to sleep during hot weather, as well as plenty of clean, fresh water that is accessible at all times. Feed your dog or cat in the cooler hours of the day. Older animals have a hard time in hot weather, so be extra sensitive to their needs during the hottest hours of the day.
  4. Be sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. Parvo virus, an illness that flourishes in hot weather, can be fatal to dogs that have not received vaccinations. Also, be sure your pet’s rabies vaccinations are current. During the summer months, pets often spend more time outdoors, increasing their chances of encountering wildlife (possible rabies carriers).
  5. It’s heartworm medication time! If your dog hasn’t been tested for heartworm this year, see your veterinarian. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, but it can be prevented by administering a monthly preventive between June and November. Additionally, make sure your pet receives flea and tick preventative medication. Many fleas and ticks carry infectious diseases that can affect your pet (e.g. Lyme Disease).
  6. Keep your pet well groomed. Daily brushing or combing lets you check for fleas and ticks. Ticks can carry infectious diseases and fleas can cause allergic reactions and “hot spots” in dogs. Hot spots are large, wet lesions that appear suddenly in areas where the dog has scratched. See your veterinarian for flea and tick preventives or if a hot spot appears.
  7. Play with your pet instead of simply stroking it to fend off July 4th firework fears. Playing a game with your pet when it shows early signs of anxiety, like pacing or trembling, can distract from the stressor and, in the long term, teach the animal to associate that same stressor with positive things such as play and treats. Follow your dog’s cue to help it “hide” in a favorite room or under a desk, complete with chew toys. Turn on the radio or TV to muffle outside noises. If your dog’s fear is severe, an appointment with the Penn Vet Behavior Service (215-898-3347) can help.
  8. Keep dogs away from picnic garbage. Ingesting corncobs and chicken bones can be life threatening. Also, according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the peels, fruit, and seeds of citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits contain varying amounts of citric acid, limonin, and volatile oils that can cause gastrointestinal irritation and result in vomiting and diarrhea. The stems, leaves, and seeds of apples, cherries, peaches, and apricots contain cyanogenic glycosides that can cause vomiting and loss of appetite when eaten in large amounts. In severe cases, weakness, difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, shock, and even death can occur. In addition, grapes and raisins can cause severe kidney damage in dogs. Cats can develop kidney failure from chewing lily plants. Anti-freeze can be deadly, even in small amounts, to both dogs and cats.
  9. If you have a swimming pool, do not leave your dog unattended in the pool area. Not all dogs can swim and they can drown if they fall into the water.
  10. Use a heavy screen on windows or keep them closed if you have cats. During the summer, the number of cats suffering from “high rise” syndrome, or falling from windows, increases dramatically. Contrary to myth, cats do not land on their feet when falling from heights. The most severe injuries occur when cats fall from second- or third-floor windows.

Penn Vet is a global leader in veterinary medicine education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the only veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health Initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, seeing nearly 33,000 patients a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals, treating 33,000 patients each year – 4,100 in the hospital and 29,000 at farms through the Field Service. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.

For more information, visit www.vet.upenn.edu.