7 Summer Dangers for Your Outdoor Cat

Summer is in full swing across the U.S., and the heat has come with it.

If you have an outdoor cat, you know she likes her independence and, other than some basic tick and flea prevention, you might think she’s OK on her own during the summer.

It is true that cats are pretty resilient, but summer provides dangers for all pets that she might not be prepared to handle. From heat stroke to poisons introduced by landscaping, there are new outdoor hazards all around her.

Here are seven common summer dangers our veterinarians see. Know these exist to help you make a plan to keep your cat from getting sick this summer.

1. Heat stroke and dehydration
You know your cat is highly intelligent, and she is pretty good at keeping cool on her own, but she needs resources from you to protect herself on the hottest days.

While she can likely find her own shade, it’s best if you provide ample cool and covered areas near your home where she can find a breeze. Additionally, leave out plenty of water for her. Some cat owners will leave out two water dishes — one with water and the other with ice that will melt as the day goes on to provide cool water later in the day.

If possible, consider bringing your outdoor cat indoors during the hottest parts of the day (10 am – 4 pm). Keep an eye on the weather forecast to see spikes in heat. If you see your cat panting, make sure to bring her inside and, if it continues, consult your veterinarian.

One note for all pets in the summer: If you need to take them somewhere, do not leave them inside the car. A car’s temperature can reach 104 degrees in less than 15 minutes on a hot summer day. This is a formula for heat stroke.

2. Cars
This is obvious in all seasons, but in the summer there is more traffic and people tend to speed a bit more. We’ve covered this in the past, but in general outdoor cats have a shorter life expectancy than indoor cats. Car injuries are one of the leading reasons for this. You obviously cannot keep your cat safe all hours of the day, but try to give her safe shelter and play areas near the back of your home, away from traffic areas. Again, if you can bring her indoors, try to do so when the traffic near your home or apartment is highest.

3. Asphalt and Sidewalks (They get Hot!)
On hot days, it’s not uncommon to see the road steam. It’s likely you would never think to walk barefoot on such a hot surface, but your cat doesn’t really have a choice. Sure, as an outdoor cat she’s a little more accustomed to the rough surfaces than you are, but it can still be too hot for her. Remember that she is much closer to the ground than you are, meaning that she really feels heat radiating off surfaces.

She likely knows how to avoid the hottest surfaces, but again, if possible, help your cat by either bringing her indoors or providing an outdoor shelter area that will keep her cool. If there are paths to her food or water that require her to go over hot asphalt or concrete, try to give those areas some cover or shade to help protect her.

4. Fleas, Bees and Ticks
Warm summer weather means pests galore – and they are on the lookout for cats and dogs. Be prepared to manage summertime pet pests like fleas, ticks and even mosquitoes. In most cases, there are safe, effective ways to prevent or eradicate pest infestations that don’t involve dosing your pet with toxic chemicals. Always read the labels on any pest prevention tools you use to make sure they are pet safe.

Additionally, the buzzing of bees can seem quite attractive to your cat, which can get her stung. If there is a lot of swelling, call your veterinarian, who can suggest an office visit or prescribe an over-the-counter medicine. Watch how your cat responds to any swelling. She may scratch the stung area or pull at her fur. Bring your cat to the vet right away if you notice any abnormal behavior or swelling.

5. Cookouts and Parties
The warmer months are the time for block parties, picnics and family gatherings. Everyone loves a cookout, especially your pet, who can find all kinds of table scraps and, if she’s social, make lots of new friends. Some cats avoid parties and others love them!

Food that’s left out, fed or dropped at a cookout can be dangerous for cats. Staples of a BBQ, like onions and garlic, are dangerous for cats.

Even worse, some guests think it’s OK to give scraps to animals at a party. Talk to your guests about what your cat can have. Politely remind them if your pet has a special diet, is allergic to anything or if there are any foods on the table that could cause a health problem. You want to enjoy the party too, not worrying about a cat that’s vomiting.

6. Water
Domesticated cats, even outdoor ones, tend to avoid water. That doesn’t mean they can’t swim, but most of them are not accustomed to it. Still, summer pool parties or parties at the lake can attract your outdoor cat and, if they are mesmerized by the water or chasing something near the water, they may end up taking an unexpected dip. Keep an eye on them, as many will be able to swim, but may be shocked to be submerged in water.

If for some reason you have one of those rare cats that likes to swim, always rinse them off afterward. Chlorine in pools and bacteria in lakes can be harmful. Always offer them fresh drinking water when they’re done.

Written by the staff at petplace.com

3 Ways Playing in Puddles Could be Deadly to Your Dog

There’s a lot to be said for a vigorous walk with your dog after a heavy rainstorm. The landscape appears refreshed, the air smells great, and you and your dog get to unleash some cabin fever!

1. Leptospirosis from puddles
Leptospirosis organisms are bacteria that thrive in wet climates. Wild animals, particularly deer and rodents, and some domesticated animals (cows, sheep and pigs) can be leptospirosis carriers. Although infected, these mammals maintain good health while shedding leptospirosis organisms in their urine.

Dogs can contract leptospirosis by drinking from water sources contaminated with urine from an infected animal. Puddles that have formed from rain runoff certainly qualify as such a source. A 2002 study on the prevalence of canine leptospirosis in the United States and Canada revealed that disease prevalence correlates with the amount of rainfall. The more rain, the more dogs diagnosed with leptospirosis.

Not all dogs become sick when exposed to Leptospirosism, but for those that do, the results can be devastating. Leptospirosis most commonly causes kidney failure. Associated symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. The liver and lungs are also targets for this disease. The diagnosis of leptospirosis is made via blood and urine testing. Successful treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive therapy such as supplemental fluids.

The leptospirosis vaccination does a good job of protecting against this disease. Talk with your veterinarian about whether or not this vaccine makes sense given where you live and the nature of your dog’s extracurricular activities.

2. Giardia from puddles
Giardia organisms are microscopic protozoa that live within the intestinal tracts of a variety of domesticated and wild animals. The infectious (contagious) forms are shed within the feces and readily contaminate water sources. This is one of the main reasons it is recommended that drinking hikers and backpackers drink only filtered water. A 2012 study documented that dogs who attend dog parks are more likely to test positive for giardia than those who do not attend dog parks.

The most common symptom caused by giardiasis in dogs is diarrhea. Vomiting and loss of appetite may also occur. The diagnosis is made via stool sample testing. A handful of medications can be used to rid the intestinal tract of giardia. Metronidazole and fenbendazole are the two most commonly used.

3. Antifreeze puddles
Consumption of only a very tiny amount of antifreeze can have devastating consequences for dogs. Ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze, causes acute, often irreversible kidney failure. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness and ultimately coma and/or seizures. The diagnosis is made based on history, urine and blood testing. Unfortunately, even with aggressive therapy, many dogs suffering from antifreeze toxicity don’t survive.

Until relatively recently, antifreeze had a sweet taste rendering it all the more enticing to dogs and children. In 2012 antifreeze manufacturers were forced to add a bittering agent to their products. Even with the addition of a bitter taste, vigilance is required to prevent antifreeze toxicity. A small amount of antifreeze within a puddle may not be enough to deter a thirsty dog from drinking.

Antifreeze sources include open product containers and antifreeze leaks from the undercarriage of vehicles. When with your dog, be sure to avoid puddles that have formed in and around parking lots.

Take home message
My goal in telling you about the potential perils of puddles isn’t to convince you to confine your dogs indoors. Heck, my dogs hike with me daily, rain or shine. Rather, my objective is to increase your awareness so that you will be mindful about where your dog drinks when out and about with you (no parking lot puddles!). I encourage you to maintain awareness of the symptoms of leptospirosis, giardiasis and antifreeze toxicity so that, if observed, you will seek veterinary attention right away.

Questions to ask your veterinarian
• What symptoms should I be watching for after I’ve observed my dog drinking from puddles?
• What should I do if I observe any of these symptoms?
• Are there certain places where I should be sure to avoid letting my dog drink from puddles?
• Should I consider the leptospirosis vaccine for my dog?
 
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Written by Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, DACVIM for Pet Health Network Newsletter: www.pethealthnetwork.com