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Summertime health tips for pets

Everybody seems to have a list of tips for helping your pets with summer heat. Most are no-brainers: Don't leave dogs in hot cars or let them walk on hot asphalt, play too hard or get too much sun. Apply flea and tick repellents, and if you're in a mosquito-prone area, talk to your vet about heartworm prevention. Take dogs on walks early or late to avoid midday heat and provide ample drinking water. But there are other risks that come with heat, vacations and outdoor play. Here are some ways to keep dogs healthy and comfortable this summer, with tips from veterinarian Louise Murray, vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City. Associated Press

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Grooming: A dog's coat is like insulation, warding off cold in the winter and heat in the summer. Trim, but don't give your dog a crew cut or such a close shave that it takes away that protection. Dogs get sunburn and skin cancer, so never cut fur shorter than an inch. (In some breeds, even an inch is too short.) Dogs shed more in summer, so brush to get rid of extra fur along with fur that's matted from water play.

Heat relief: Most pets find cool, shady spots to lie down, but some, especially animals that are overweight or can't tolerate heat, might benefit from cooling beds, mats or vests. The mats get filled with water, which mixes with a high-tech gel to create a cool, waterbed-like cushion. Consumer reviews are generally positive but caution that some beds spring leaks (or are chewed by dogs).

Food: No food will keep your dog cooler, but food helps keep body temperature up, so dogs may not need to eat as much in the summer. If your dog stays at a hotel with you or at a kennel, consider bringing food from home. A change in diet can cause diarrhea. Barbecues and picnics are a veterinarian's nightmare. Keep pets in the house or on a leash to prevent them from being fed or lapping up things that are bad for them, whether it's spilled alcohol or onion dip. Onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and chocolate are the most toxic foods for dogs.

Vacations: Dogs can get carsick if they're not used to driving, so go for small trips before a road trip. On boats, consider a doggie life vest. Protect the dog from gasoline and other toxic products. At the beach, provide drinking water so the dog does not drink salt water.

On planes, if your pet is small enough, keep it in the cabin with you. Call ahead because some airlines limit animals per flight. Be prepared to pay a fee and check on necessary paperwork. If your dog must fly as cargo, note that the U.S. Department of Transportation says short-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs die during air transport at much higher rates than other breeds.

If you're boarding your dog, remember that many kennels require proof of vaccines such as rabies and kennel cough.

Lawns: Some lawn products are toxic to dogs and cats. Weed killers and herbicides are the worst — some cause cancer. Some fertilizers are also toxic. All a dog or cat has to do is walk on the lawn and lick its paws to be exposed. In 2010, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received more than 4,000 calls related to garden toxins. These include herbicides, plants (hydrangea, tulips, azaleas, lilies), insecticides, mushrooms, fertilizers and cocoa mulch.

Overheating: Recognize overheating if you see it — excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, seizures, and elevated body temperatures over 104 degrees. Animals with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. Sponge the animal with lukewarm water and seek veterinary care if you suspect overheating.

Summertime health tips for pets 08/08/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 8, 2011 4:43pm]
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