Health Advocate Blog

Top tips to keep your pet safe outdoors

Enjoying the beautiful spring and summer weather with your pets can be a lot of fun – from adventures at the park to walks on the beach, and much more. But remember that the outdoor adventures can also bring potential risks to pets’ health and safety. Keep these tips in mind to make sure you and your pet enjoy a safe and happy spring and summer:

Use the right equipment when walking your pet. If you are walking your dog or cat, be sure to use equipment like collars, leashes, and harnesses appropriate for your pet’s species, size, and breed.

Do not leave your pet in the car – While it may be tempting to roll down the windows for your pet while you dash into the grocery store, this is never a good idea. Studies show cracking the windows does not make a big difference, and your car can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly (think a 19 degree increase in less than 10 minutes!). Even just a few minutes in a hot car can be extremely dangerous and possibly life-threatening to your pet. Plus, in many states, it is illegal to leave your pet alone in a car during extreme (i.e., HOT!) weather.

Reschedule walks with your pet – If you’re hot when walking outside, remember it feels even hotter to your pet. Your pet does not sweat like humans do, nor can it remove a layer of clothing to cool off. To help keep your pet cool and comfortable, schedule your walks during early morning or evening hours when the temperatures are a bit lower. It’s also critical to keep in mind the surface you are walking on – asphalt can be extremely hot and burn your pet’s paws, so try to stick to shaded paths or grass whenever possible. To test if a surface is too warm to walk on, place the back of your hand on the street or sidewalk. If it’s too hot to keep it there for five seconds, find an alternate path or hold off on going out until it’s cooler outside.

Take precautions outside… When pets are spending time outdoors, make sure they have access to shade and fresh water, and keep them inside on extremely hot days. It’s also important to be aware of potential dangers your pet may encounter while outside, such as swimming pools or any chemicals you may use on your yard or garden. And while a dip in the pool or lake is refreshing for everyone, never let your dogs swim unsupervised. There are also dog-specific life jackets and flotation devices that are recommended if you are going out on a boat.

And take precautions inside, too – If you like to keep your windows, especially those upstairs, open in the summer to let in the fresh air, make sure to have secure screens installed to reduce the risk of your pet falling out of the window.

Groom pets and use skin protection – In order to help keep your pet cool, it may be helpful to trim longer coats as appropriate (check with your vet first for recommendations). You can also apply pet-specific sunscreen to help prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer, especially on any exposed skin and for pets with light-colored or thin coats. Just make sure to use formulas specifically designed for pets as ingredients in human-specific sunscreens can be dangerous for our furry friends.

Stay on top of your pets’ health and wellness – In addition to visiting the vet for an annual check-up and vaccinations, it’s especially important this time of year to make sure you are using regular flea, tick and heartworm preventive medicine (for best results, vets recommend this year-round).

Many of us consider pets to be part of our families, so it’s important that we help them stay safe and healthy while spending time outdoors.