Memorial Day weekend is filled with fun, festive celebrations, many of which take place outside. If you plan on bringing your dog, it’s important to consider holiday pet safety.
“Many dogs do not enjoy big crowds, parades and fireworks,” says Dr. Laurie Coger, DVM, CVCP, and owner of HealthyDogWorkshop.com. “If you take your dog to these types of events, make sure he is comfortable, well-trained and wearing a secure collar and leash.”
Dogs are not the only pets you need to watch during these hotter months. Cats are susceptible to many of the same risks.
Protect Your Pet From the Elements
Memorial Day is the unofficial first day of summer. While everyone—dogs and humans alike—enjoys the warmer weather, it’s important to remain mindful of sunny-weather risks.
Since it’s probably been a while since your shoulders saw the sun, you’ll likely apply sunscreen to your body. Similarly, consider protecting your kitty or pooch’s skin, especially if they have short hair, white or light-colored hair, a pink nose, or a hairless belly (the sun can reflect off the ground, burning the belly).
Their noses, ear rims and stomachs in particular can get a severe sunburn without adequate protection. Symptoms include red, dry or cracked skin.
To avoid a cat or dog sunburn, use a sunscreen specifically formulated for pets. A cat or dog sunscreen, like My Dog Nose It! Sun Protection Balm, is made with ingredients that are safe for your pet’s skin.
With warmer weather, pets also are at risk for dehydration or heatstroke. After all, they wear a fur coat year-round, regardless of whether it’s snowing or sweltering.
Unlike humans, who are covered in sweat glands, dogs and cats only can sweat through certain parts of their bodies, such as the pads of their feet. So it’s critical to keep an eye on your pets to identify early signs of dehydration and heatstroke in dogs and cats.
When dehydrated, dogs and cats typically lose their appetite, have a dry mouth and gums, and are lethargic. Skin tenting is a simple way to see if your pet dehydrated. Gently pinch the skin over your pet’s shoulders and pull up. If the skin is slow to return to its normal position, your pet may be dehydrated.
The signs of heatstroke in dogs include excessive panting, drooling, reddened gums, rapid heart rate and increased body temperature. A hot cat experiencing heatstroke will have a rapid pulse and breathing, a very red tongue and mouth, and they will appear lethargic and stumble when walking. A hot cat may even start vomiting.
If you suspect your hot cat or dog is overheating while playing outside, bring him into the shade or inside immediately. Once in a cool area, provide him with cool water to drink. If his symptoms worsen, contact your veterinarian.
Because the pavement can heat up during the summer months, it’s wise to check the temperature of asphalt and walkways before letting your pet walk on them.
“The pavement can be hot and burn pads,” Dr. Coger says. “If you can’t hold your hand on the pavement or sidewalk for 5 seconds, it is too hot to walk your dog on.”
Before walks, prepare yourself with water, a travel dog bowl (try Petmate’s collapsible pet travel bowl), poop bags and some treats for rewarding your pet for being a good citizen. This way, you and your pup are prepared for any excursion.
Don’t Let Your Pet Get Lost
If you’re enjoying your holiday with pets at a crowded park or rowdy backyard party, be mindful of the risk of your dog getting lost. A guest might leave the back gate open or your pup could slip his collar in a moment of excitement. So, make sure your pet is wearing identification!
There are a variety of identification options, including pet microchips and ID tags. Platinum Pets’ Pawsitively Safe pet tag comes with a code on the back. If anyone finds your pet, they can enter the code online to find your contact information. Regardless of what you choose, your dogs and cats need some form of identification, so they can be returned to you quickly and safely.
Another important consideration when at a party with pets is that some people fear dogs, and others might not know how to approach an unfamiliar pup.
“It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone likes dogs at holiday events,” Dr. Coger says. “Do not allow your dog to approach people, and be prepared for people to try to pet your dog without asking.”
Beware the Buffet
“Dogs and outdoor barbecues are a bad idea,” Dr. Coger says.
If your dog is eyeing the buffet—filled with chocolate cookies, hamburgers, and French fries—he’ll probably attempt to sneak off with a snack (or five!).
“Raiding the trash is a very common occurrence,” Dr. Coger says.
Cats can be equally sneaky when it comes to swiping a tasty snack, so keep an eye on them and place food in difficult-to-reach places.
Eating new and strange food can cause digestive upset in dogs and cats, triggering vomiting and diarrhea. Some human food is downright toxic to pets—including large amounts of chocolate and processed foods sweetened with xylitol.
Before heading to or hosting a Memorial Day party, make sure your pet’s tummy is full with his normal food, and keep a sharp eye on him when you arrive.
Keep Your Pet Calm During Fireworks and Loud Noises
One of the biggest hazards of a holiday with pets is all the loud, rowdy action that typically accompanies parties. Many pets become anxious, stressed and fearful around loud noises, such as crowds and fireworks.
Nervous pets are more likely to bite, act out and run off.
“Any scared dog may bite,” Dr. Coger says. “And if he bites a child’s face or hand, the consequences can be very serious.”
If your cat or dog is showing signs of stress, it’s best to remove them from the situation entirely. There also are calming aids available to help your pet feel relaxed during busy and noisy events.
For dogs, the ThunderShirt gently hugs him to provide a calming effect. You can also try calming chews. NaturVet’s Quiet Moments Calming Aid contains thiamine and L-Tryptophan to help reduce a dog’s stress and anxiety.
For cats, there also are calming chews that use L-Theanine and thiamine to calm their nerves. Additional options are Sentry’s calming collar or Feliway cat spray, which both use pheromones to calm kitties in high-stress situations.
Keeping your pets securely inside or within your gated yard during loud events like a firework show also can help. This ensures that your beloved pets cannot bolt off if they get scared. Surrounding your pets with familiar smells and objects also can calm them while dealing with stressful loud noises and commotion.
Plan ahead with these holiday pet safety tips to make your Memorial a success for you and your furry family members.
Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies include trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he’s a dog, Ferguson.
Featured Image: Leigh Prather/Shutterstock.com