From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, Minnesotans take advantage of every precious summer day! For many, weekends mean heading “up north” to enjoy quality time at the lake, grilling, and bonfires. But if your pet is joining the outdoor fun, it’s important to keep safety top of mind. So, while you’re packing for your summer weekend getaways, or even while you’re riding shotgun while stuck in traffic on 35, review these tips so you can avoid a side trip to the emergency vet!
1. Prepare before you leave home.
Your pet should have both ID tags and a microchip . Be sure the microchip is registered, and the contact information is correct so if your pet gets lost in a strange city, you’re more likely to be reunited. It’s also important for your pet’s vaccinations to be up-to-date, as well as any preventatives (such as tick or heartworm).
2. Pets should be secure in the vehicle during travels.
Just like you must wear your seatbelt, our pets need to be secure in the car, too. Crates and carriers are ideal for most pets. Invest in products that are “crash-tested” and recommended by the Center for Pet Safety.
3. Have a pet first aid kit with you.
If you haven’t put together a pet first aid kit yet, we highly recommend doing so! In addition to having one in your home, you should also have one in your car, on your boat, and in your cabin. This way, you can help your pet quickly if an injury or emergency occurs.
4. Watch the heat and monitor your pet closely while outside.
Summer days can get hot – even in Minnesota. On a hot and humid day, never leave your pet in a parked car and no heavy exercising (learn more here)! If you are planning an active day and the forecast calls for humid weather, it’s best to leave your pet inside the cabin or at home with a pet sitter. While outside, your pet should always have access to fresh water and shade – especially higher risk pets. Monitor your pet closely and watch for signs of heat stress:
- Excessive panting
- Change in mentation/alertness/responsiveness
- Wobbly walk/inability to walk
- Black, tarry stool
If your pet does display signs of overheating, learn what to do here. You can also find more heat safety tips here!
5. Do not use sprays or human sunscreens on pets.
Bug sprays, sunscreen, and lotions are made for humans, and are often unsafe for pets. Unless the product is pet-specific, it can be toxic. Pets may experience skin rashes or hives, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, trouble breathing, change in behavior, tremors, or a wobbly gait. If you are applying sprays on yourself, be sure to keep your pet away as you spray to avoid accidental direct exposure. If you are concerned about your pet needing protection from the sun or pesky bugs, talk to your family veterinarian about preventatives and pet-friendly sunscreen.
6. Keep pets safe while in the water or on the boat.
A properly fitting life jacket for your pet is a must – whether your pet is swimming, boating, paddle boarding, or enjoying other water activities. Before allowing your pet into the water, look for blue-green algae. If you spot it, don’t let your pet swim or drink the water! If your pet hasn’t gone swimming before, it’s a great idea to teach him or her (Learn how here)! For those with water-loving dogs who could spend all day in the lake, beware of the rare yet possible incidence of water intoxication in the event that your dog consumes too much water. For those with swimming pools, find additional safety tips here!
7. Keep your dogs on a leash while hiking and around the campsite.
Before you head into the great outdoors, review Chuck & Don’s packing list here. When hiking and hanging out around the campsite, keep dogs on a leash to prevent them from chasing wildlife, being punctured by a stick, or being burned by the campfire. Be sure to regularly check your dog’s skin, paws, and fur for thorns, burrs, and ticks. Find more hiking and camping pet safety tips here!
8. Avoid toxic and hazardous human foods.
Whether you are having a BBQ, picnic, or a camping adventure, pets should be monitored around human food. Here are a few reasons why:
- Some human foods are toxic to pets, such as: grapes/raisins, onions, garlic, chives, leeks, macadamia nuts, xylitol (often found in sugar-free baked goods, gum, and other products), chocolate, and alcohol.
- Some foods may cause choking or an intestinal obstruction, such as: meat bones, corn on the cob, and fruit pits. Kabob skewers are also dangerous!
- Fatty foods and sweet, sugary foods may cause pancreatitis.
If you’re having guests, remind them not to feed pets and ensure all waste ends up in a secure trash container! If you plan to grill, check out more pet safety tips here!
9. Don’t let pets get too close to the bonfire fun.
If you let your pet hang out with you by the fire pit, keep him/her a safe distance away to prevent a wagging tail from getting burned or sensitive airways and lungs from being affected by smoke. Also, since you already know chocolate is toxic to pets and sugary foods can cause pancreatitis, we will state the obvious: no s’mores for pets! And of course, never leave your pet unattended while a fire is burning.
10. Be patient with your pet during loud noises.
Many pets experience noise anxiety, a medical condition in which sounds cause fearful and anxious behaviors. Triggers include fireworks, thunderstorms, and construction. If your pet has noise anxiety, keep them safe during loud noises, and don’t punish anxious behaviors. Learn more on what (and what not!) to do here.
We hope this list helps you and your pet enjoy a safe summer filled with adventures and outdoor fun! If you are traveling out of town, we highly recommend researching veterinary clinics and animal emergency hospitals along your route and near your destination – before you leave home. It’s always best to be prepared than to experience a pet emergency in the middle of the woods with no wifi and zero bars!
For those who will be near the Twin Cities, a reminder that our Oakdale facility is open 24/7, every day of the year including holidays, and our St. Paul facility is currently open daily from 8AM – 8PM.