It’s that time. Cool spring temperatures have given way to the heat of summer. For many people, this is the season for recreation at the lake, by the pool or with backyard cookouts. While summer can be a fun time, it’s also important to keep your pet’s health in mind and recognize the potential dangers they may encounter as they share in summer celebrations and outdoor activities.

The combination of heat and humidity can be deadly for a pet, as it can lead to heat stress and heat stroke. Dogs cool themselves through respiration. They don’t sweat as efficiently as humans, especially when the humidity is high. Even moderate activity can rapidly increase your pet’s core temperature to dangerous levels, which can result in organ failure and death. That three-mile jog you enjoy with your canine buddy in the cooler seasons can become a real threat to his or her safety during the summer. If you choose to run with your dog, be sure to do so in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures are lower. With geriatric dogs, the diminished lung function that comes with age complicates their ability to cool down and even light exercise such as walking can put them at risk.

It is critical that dogs of any age are never left alone in a car during this time of year. Even with the windows “cracked”, temperatures inside a vehicle spike to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes, putting your dog at risk of suffering from heat stroke or death in a very short amount of time.

If your summer travel plans don’t include the family pets, it’s important to plan well in advance for the care they will need in your absence. Kennels are often full before big holidays, so it’s crucial to make early reservations. If you go play to keep your pet at a kennel while you are away, he or she will need to be up-to-date on all vaccinations and on flea and tick preventatives – so plan a visit to your vet well before your trip as well.

Many dogs experience noise phobias, which can make summer particularly difficult with the increased frequency of thunderstorms and firework displays. Our local tradition of setting off patriotic pyrotechnics was once limited to the 30-minute “Sky Show” in Charlotte on the 4th of July. But now you’ll find fireworks in many neighborhoods throughout the holiday week. Symptoms of noise phobia in a pet can include pacing, panting and shaking. Loud noises can also cause full-scale panic attacks. Dogs who are panicked can be incredibly destructive to property, such as doors, windows, and drywall; or cause injury to themselves as they try to “escape” the noise.

As if that’s not enough, insects as more of a nuisance in warmer, humid weather. Many people do not realize that mosquitoes are the primary culprits of heartworm disease in dogs. Thankfully, effective heartworm treatment products are readily available, making it easy to protect your pet. Fleas are also a problem, as the bites are not only uncomfortable for your pet, but they are also a source of parasitic and infectious diseases. And then there are those evil ticks and all of the challenges they bring! Ticks will quickly latch onto your pets’ fur and skin, so it’s important to check their coats after they’ve been outside. Talk to your veterinarian about finding the best product to save your pets from both fleas and ticks.

As you’re enjoying the summer months, be sure to keep the health and well-being of your canine and feline friends in mind so that they can have a happy and safe summer too!

Originally published June 2017 in the Lake Norman Citizen

Dr.Tom Hemstreet is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300.