Pets can have a ‘ruff’ time during the summer: How owners can adapt

Expert offers advice on how to best navigate through firework noises and BBQs, and what to do for vacations

Stock image. Blue Bird (Pexels)

With summer getting into full swing, that means activities such as barbecues, celebrations with fireworks, and of course, vacations.

But those with pets know that can lead to complications regarding an animal’s well-being, especially in the midst of crowds and noise -- and how will the pet be cared for if they don’t go on vacation with a family?

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Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Chief Veterinarian of Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital in Ontario, Canada, and adviser to Rover, gave some insight and tips on five issues regarding pets and their safety for summer activities.

1. What to do about fireworks?

Greenstein said noise phobias and fireworks-induced anxiety are common and distressing for pets.

To help pets cope with any celebrations or simply the number of fireworks that can be heard in neighborhoods and other surrounding areas, Greenstein offered these suggestions:

  • Stay home with them and serve as a source of comfort. Distracting pets by playing with them, or giving them toys and treats, in a sound-insulated area of the home, is a good thing to do.
  • Use white noise machines. These can be valuable for a pet, to help drown out the sound of fireworks.
  • Put a Thundershirt on your pet. Greenstein said the snug fit can provide a source of calm and comfort.
  • Medication. If it’s not ultimately harmful to your pet, sedatives or anti-anxiety medications could help them cope better.

2. How to prepare pets for gatherings at your home

Throwing a barbecue or other summer party at home might not be the best idea if large crowds bring trauma, aggression or anxiety to a pet. But there can be ways to help a furry friend adapt.

“If you think your pet may tolerate guests, it’s best to start small, by inviting one or two trusted animal-loving friends over so your pet can learn that strangers aren’t necessarily threatening or scary,” Greenstein said. “If you coach your friends to go slow with your pets and respect their boundaries, while speaking to them reassuringly and offering treats, the takeaway for your pet will be a positively reinforcing experience. Then gradually work up to larger gatherings, as tolerated.”

3. What should you do with pets when you go on vacation?

This largely depends on the personality of your pet. Most pets typically like a more familiar and comfortable environment when their owners aren’t around, so finding a pet sitter to come over to your house is often the best option.

But for pets who are more active, or for owners who can’t find a pet sitter to come over, identifying a trusted kennel or day camp is a good option.

“It’s important to know your dog’s temperament and comfort levels, and have a dress rehearsal of sorts to make sure everyone’s needs are being met,” Greenstein said.

4. Being careful about BBQ scraps

Much like humans, pets often LOVE the smell of barbecues in the summer. But scraps of food or other items related to barbecues such as wooden skewers and bones have caused deaths in healthy dogs or other pets, and can be dangerous, Greenstein said.

“It’s always tempting to share your BBQ scraps with Fido, but from a vet’s perspective, I’d much prefer pet parents keep their plates to themselves,” Greenstein said. “Fatty scraps and gristle can cause an upset (tummy) and even inflammation of the pancreas (called pancreatitis) that can make dogs extremely ill and can require hospitalization.”

Greenstein added, bones can cause teeth, throat and digestive issues.

5. Be cautious when taking your pets for car rides.

While the issue of pet safety in a car might seem obvious to some, Greenstein said it’s still a problem every summer.

“Pet owners consistently underestimate how quickly and dramatically the interior of a parked car can heat up on a warm (even overcast) day -- leading to heat stroke and even fatal consequences,” she said. “It’s a tragedy that can be easily prevented by leaving fur babies safely at home when the mercury rises.”

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.