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Aug. 5, 2020

Summertime safety for your pet

This piece is repurposed content from the College of Veterinary Medicine. View the original here.

While state and local health departments are encouraging people to take precautions this summer to prevent the spread of COVID-19, pet owners should also consider how to keep their pets healthy and safe during the hot months. Below are things that pet owners are advised to be aware of and prepare for so they and their pets can be happy, healthy and safe during the dog days of summer. 


Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, occurs when the body cannot accommodate excessive internal heat. Heatstroke often occurs in the summer, when high temperatures and humidity are most common and frequent. If not treated by a veterinarian immediately, heatstroke can lead to organ dysfunction and even death. The best way to protect pets is to take steps to prevent heatstroke in the first place.

These steps include never leaving pets in the car, making sure pets always have access to plenty of shade and water, refraining from exercise — even walking, knowing the signs of heatstroke and having a plan in the event that heatstroke occurs. Most importantly, be familiar with the signs of an overheated animal.

The bottom line is too much sun, heat and humidity can be very dangerous for pets. If owners are worried their pets may get too hot when outside temperatures are scorching, they're advised to leave them indoors and keep them out of the heat. It's always best practice to never leave pets outside in the heat for too long.

Food and Beverages

Fluffy and Whiskers are more than welcome to join the barbecue or patio brunch, but please keep these things in mind to keep them safe while you all enjoy the hot day:

  1. No boozing for the four-legged friends. Alcoholic beverages are toxic to pets. Even if it's only the splash of knocked-over adult beverage, do not let your pet lick it up.
  2. We know those big puppy-dog eyes can be hard to resist, but do not feed your pets table food. Fatty and fried foods are toxic to pets, as are these other common foods. Scraps and leftovers can give your dog indigestion or even pancreatitis. Corn on the cob can lodge in a dog’s intestines. And lots of human foods are poisonous for dogs.
  3. Keep an eye on paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils and kabob skewers as they can be harmful to pets when ingested.
  4. Something that is A-okay and highly recommended in large quantities is water! Both pets and humans need it to survive, especially in the heat. Make sure water bowls and bottles are full so you and your pets can stay cool and hydrated.Dog on Fourth of July

Campfires, candles and toxins — Oh My!

Unfortunately, accidental and intentional poisoning of pets happens every year in the United States. The toxicology laboratory at the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory cautions pet owners to be knowledgeable of these toxins at all times, but especially during those where exposure is increased.

Matches, lighter fluid and unused fireworks are a major no-no and something for pet owners to keep an eye on. If ingested, these products cause serious health issues in pets that will require emergency intervention. Aspiration pneumonia is the most common. These same concerns apply to citronella, insect oils and tiki torch coils.

Pets should not be near hot grills, fire pits or any flames. Their curiosity can get the best of them sometimes. Either keep a close eye on them or put them inside when these instances can't be avoided.


If planning to take dogs swimming, or wanting to plop them in the water in an effort to cool them down, make sure they're always being watched. If owners are worried about the swimming abilities of their dogs, it's advised that they go in the water with them or that dogs only go swimming if they're wearing a life vest for dogs.

When allowing dogs to swim in the middle of, or a busy part of a lake, it's recommended that they always have life vests on. A bright-colored life vest will help your dog stay afloat and alert boaters to their presence. If possible, practice putting it on them at home so they can get used to it.

The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory urges pet owners to be especially aware of harmful algal blooms when they or their pets are in or near the water. Harmful algal blooms caused by cyanobacteria can have an impact on the health of people and animals.

Leptospirosis, a disease caused by infection with one of the more than 250 types of bacteria called Leptospiracan also be contracted from the water. These bacteria can infect any mammal, including humans. Leptospira live in warm, wet environments like damp grass, standing water, mud and lakes. For more information about Leptospirosis, visit MSU's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.


We aren't ticking around, parasites are serious. From ticks and tick-borne diseases to mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases, these pests aren't something animal owners should ignore, especially during the summer.

The key to protecting pets from parasites and vector-borne diseases, or diseases transmitted from one animal to another via an outside vector such as a tick or mosquito, is prevention. Regular use of heartworm and flea and tick preventatives all year helps keep pets safe in their own backyards and when they travel with their owners.


Keep a close eye on pets, especially if travelling. Leash where appropriate and make sure pets are wearing a collar that has their current contact information. Microchips also are a great option. Since domestic cats tend to get spooked more easily than dogs, it's best to keep them at home or somewhere safe indoors.