Hot Dog! Veterinarians Share Summer Pet Safety Tips


Heidi Kyser

More than two-thirds of American households have pets, according to a pet-industry trade group.  

That means some 2 million Nevadans are heading into summer with their cats and dogs  as well as ferrets, fish, and parakeets. 

But do all these pet owners know the special risks they face from June to August?

There are hot cars and sidewalks, of course, but also bees, foxtails, poisonous plants, snakes, swimming pools, and other hazards.

Two veterinarians give advice for keeping your pets safe this summer and handling mishaps that do come up. 

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Terry Spencer: Certain breeds of dogs are at high risk for heat illness because they can't cool off as well as other dogs. I'm talking about what we call brachycephalic dogs. A pug, a bulldog, even a pitbull can be a brachycephalic dog because they have a smushed face and that tongue and soft pallet are normal sized and it covers their airway and they can't cool off as well.

Gary Richter: That's the tricky bit with dogs is that because they are so eager to please, they're not going to show you the early signs of them getting tired or them getting overheated or them being in pain... its only when things have progressed so far that they can't really hide it anymore and they're limping or they stop because they can't go anymore, or they're so overheated that they literally starting to lose their balance and they're at risk of collapsing, which makes it so important that we as people are cognizant and aware of what our dogs are doing and what we're asking our dogs to do.

Burned Paws:

Richter: A good rule of thumb is if you put your bare hand on the pavement and it's too hot for you to keep your hands there for a couple of seconds it is definitely at risk for burning a dog's feet.

Spencer: (The paw pad) is not as thick as you think. Think of it like a fingernail. It takes a long time to regrow if there is an injury to that pad. Even if you have your fingernail and touch it to something hot, you'll feel heat through there. It is not as thick as you imagine.

To shave or not to shave:

Spencer: The fur is indeed an insulator in some dogs that we call arctic breeds, whose fur is double-coated. There is a long hair and short hair that is designed to protect them from the cold. (For) those breeds of dog, (the fur) is not really designed to protect them from the heat. That is a breed that is probably not well adapted to living a desert environment.

Other breeds are designed to be shaved because we do it for visual appeal for ourselves, like poodles or schnauzers, and so shaving them doesn't seem to affect their temperature regulation as much because they are only single coated hairs.

In general, if it's not a breed we're not accustom to shaving, I wouldn't shave it for the summer. You can put them at risk for sunburn and other issues if they're not accustomed to shaving.

Richter: If somebody owns a husky or a malamute and they live in Las Vegas that is something they really need to think about from the perspective of where they're going to take their dog and what kind of activities they're going to do with them and when.

Hiking with pets:

Spencer: A lot of people take their pets off leash and most of the trails are going to say to you that your pet should be on a leash and you think, 'Oh no! I just want my pet to roam free.' That is not a safe thing to do. Pets don't have cause and effect thinking. They don't think, 'If I run this far, there might be a cliff and I might fall off it.'

Pet eats marijuana or marijuana product:

Spencer: The good news is most pets don't die from that exposure. Most of the time they get overexcited. They're not acting normal and they're kind of buzzing around but they really need to be confined and watched. So, if your dog is kennel trained and it did something like eat your stash, you need to confine it so it can't injure itself. And it may take 24 hours or more before that wears off their system.

Fireworks on 4th of July:

Richter: If it's just something that's every now and again, like July 4th, the ideal thing would be avoidance. If possible, take the dog somewhere where it's not going to be that noisy.

If that's not possible, other things that you can do are turn the TV or stereo on pretty loud and try and create a lot of ambient noise so it is not as disturbing to the dog.

You can also give them a place where they feel safe and you stay with them and give them some security.

Sometimes there are medications or supplements that can be used for sedation and anxiety. This is something that people should speak to their veterinarian about as to whether or not this is a good idea to do in your individual dog.

Sometimes the problem with giving dogs medications... is the dog doesn't understand or know that they've been given something. Then what happens is there is a stressful event like fireworks and then they start to feel weird because you've given them something like a Xanax and that actually creates more anxiety because they don't understand why they don't feel right.



Cat and dog first aid - Red Cross

Animal Foundation

Hot Weather Tips - ASPCA


Terry Spencer, chief veterinarian, The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas; Gary Richter, consulting veterinarian,


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