A Vet’s Top Summer Tips for Pet Owners

A Vet’s Top Summer Tips for Pet Owners

SUMMER IS HERE – the heat is overwhelming, the insects are feasting, and the pool is as mainstream as the couch. Summer is a great time to travel with pets. I own a veterinary hospital in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Victoria Park Animal Hospital. We are a hub for travelers, tourists, and snowbirds. I always see an influx of “summer” emergencies, and it can be stressful for pet parents and pets alike. I’m a firm believer that summer pet safety and traveling with your pet are all about education and preparation. So I want to share my top summer tips for pet owners.

1. Heatstroke in Pets

Heatstroke is by far the most upsetting summertime emergency I see. If not treated quickly enough, this devastating complication can result in death. Heatstroke is a condition caused by the body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures.

Imagine wearing a fur coat during the summer and sitting outside for an hour or so. That is what it is like for our pets. Make sure your pets have access to shade, water, and a cool area. Try to pick times of the day that are not so hot, such as the early morning or evening, for walks. Always carry a water bottle for your pet.

NEVER leave a pet in the car without the AC running during the summer time.  People do not realize Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes.

It is important to note that Brachycephalic breeds (dogs that have a flat and wide skull shape, such as bulldogs, pekingese, and pugs) and overweight dogs are more prone to heatstroke. Extra preventative measures should be taken for these dogs during hotter months.

2. Cookouts and Food

Summer is great for BBQs, and I certainly love hosting, but these cookouts can be harmful to our pets. I see a lot of upset stomachs during the summer because of table scraps and foods that guests give pets. When pets eat something that they aren’t normally accustomed to, such as burgers or hot dogs, they can develop severe inflammation with vomiting and diarrhea. It can also lead to more serious conditions such as pancreatitis.

In addition to an upset belly, many foods in large quantities are toxic to our pets, such as grapes, onions, garlic, and raisins. Grapes and raisins are safe for cats, but keep onions and garlic away from them.

Some cookout foods can also be a risk of choking or obstruction such as corn on the cob, fruits with pits, and foods with bones, toothpicks, or skewers.

Make sure to talk to any guests, especially kids, before summer parties. Remind them not to feed your pets any food. You want to enjoy the party, too, not spend it looking after a pet with an upset stomach.

3. Hot Sidewalks and Pet Paws

Black pavement (or asphalt) can get very hot and can harm your pets’ paws. Avoid these areas during the hottest times of the day. Or ask your dog walker to keep your pet on the grass.

Another common injury I see is ripped or torn paw pads. Many times, dogs will run around excessively in circles on the pavement. This behavior causes torn paw pads. Check paw pads often for injury during the hot summer months.

4. Pools

Pools and lakes are great exercise and great fun for our pets. Keep in mind that not all dogs can swim. Certain breeds, like pugs and terriers, often have trouble swimming. If your pet is not accustomed to swimming, watch them carefully when they are outside near the pool. I do see drowning emergencies at the hospital, which can be very scary.

If your pets enjoys the water, use an ear cleaner with a drying agent after swimming. Ear infections are very common.

5. Parasites, Bee Stings, and Snakes

We see ticks and fleas all year round in south Florida, but these pests are worse during the spring and summer seasons. I see more pets during the summer with bee stings and snake bites. Please refer to my blog on Springtime Pet Hazards for more information on these parasites and insects and how to protect your pet.

6. Fireworks

Many dogs are terrified of the loud sounds of fireworks. These fears can present with mild signs like hiding or more severe signs like destruction, shaking, and harming themselves. I see many of my clients right before the Fourth of July for sedatives for their pets.

So if your pet has a fear of fireworks, prepare as best you can. Take them to a place where the fireworks cannot be heard. If that is not an option, your veterinarian can prescribe medications for anxiety and fear.

7. Hurricanes

For all of us Floridians, June officially kicks off hurricane season. Hurricanes are a very real and scary threat in Florida during the summer, and preparation is crucial. Visit the Red Cross for more information and details on preparing for hurricane season with your pets.

Most Common Questions about Traveling with Pets

Living in a tourist hot spot, I see many traveling pets and pets owners in addition to my local patients. Summer is also a fantastic time to travel WITH your pet. However, there are some guidelines you need to follow to keep pets safe or to prepare for certain destinations or means of travel. So keep these Q&As in your arsenal of summer travel tips for pet owners.

What do I need to consider when traveling with pets?

  1. Some pets cannot handle travel because of illness, injury, age, or temperament. Speak with your veterinarian regarding your pet’s safety and wellbeing during travel.
  2. Make sure your pet has identification tags with up-to-date information. Microchips are a great way to identify your pet if they are ever lost.
  3. If you are taking your pet across state or international borders, you will need a health certificate. The health certificate must be signed by a USDA-certified veterinarian after an examination determines your pet does not have any diseases. Your pet’s must be up-to-date on all vaccinations in order to finalize the health certificate.
  4. Make sure your pet is permitted at your destination whether that be a friend’s house, a hotel/motel, park, or campground, etc.

Whom should I contact in order to prepare travel arrangements?

  1. Your veterinarian
  2. The airline or travel company you’re using
  3. Your accommodations: hotel, motel, park, camping ground, or marina
  4. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal & Plant Inspection Service, Veterinary Services (USDA)Foreign Consulate or Regulatory Agency (if traveling to another country)

What supplies should I have for my pet on my trip?

  1. Your veterinarian’s contact information
  2. List of veterinarians and 24-hour emergency hospitals along the way and close to your destination
  3. Identification (current color photo of your pet, ID tag including owners name, current address, contact phone number, Travel ID tag including owners name, address, contact phone number, accommodations contact information, microchip registration)
  4. Medical records
  5. Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate)
  6. Acclimation certificate for air travel (a form from your veterinarian to waive the low temperature Federal regulation as stated in the Animal Welfare Act – only some airlines require this form, so check with yours)
  7. Items for your pets (prescribed medications, collar, leash, harness, crate, bed/blankets, toys, food and cool, fresh water, food and water dishes, first aid kit for your pet)

Can I bring my pet out of the country with me?

Yes, but you must follow both the United States regulations as well as the regulations in the other country where you are traveling. You will need to contact the Consulate or Embassy in that country to find out their regulations. Some countries require months of preparation before you can leave, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to prepare and have all documents and medical requirements ready and available. International travel always requires a health certificate signed by a USDA certified veterinarian.

Eastern Therapy Food Medicine

As a veterinarian, I love combining my Western medical education and background with Eastern philosophy-based therapies. I love the more natural, holistic approach to medicine. Maintaining balanced nutrition is one of my biggest summer tips for pet owners. it is a vital step to increasing your pet’s overall well being while also fighting potential concerns like skin conditions and allergies.

Eastern Food Therapy looks at the body as a whole to observe and comprehend your pet and their health. At its core, the therapy seeks to recognize internal imbalances, so we can work to rebalance the body and mind. These principals guide us to utilize the inherent properties of whole food ingredients as tools to help our pets heal and prevent disease.



  1. Rich in vitamin C and other unique antioxidants and botanical compounds, such as flavonoids
  2. Provides soluble and insoluble fiber, beta carotene, potassium, and boron
  3. Promotes the secretion of body fluid, moistens the lungs, relieves restlessness, and stimulates appetite


  1. Improves skin and coat condition and reduces itching and scratching
  2. Eliminates tear stains on face and reduces urine stains in lawn
  3. Increases mobility in some dogs and reduces flea population
  4. Scatters stasis, stops bleeding, resolves toxins, and kills worms


  1. Rich in proteins and minerals: calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, silicon, and zinc
  2. Contains vitamins A, B1, B12, C, D, E, and K
  3. Has diuretic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties
  4. Valuable source of trace minerals
  5. Purifies blood and liver
  6. Strong alkaline effect on body

These are a few examples of some “cooling” ingredients. Please refer to Side by Side Pet for more detailed information on Eastern Food Therapy and the benefits of whole food, high quality nutrition for your pet.

Final Thoughts:

I hope these summer tips for pet owners will keep your pets safe and healthy during the summer months. Summer is a time for water sports, cookouts, family, fun, travel, and relaxation. Prepare as well as you can, and avoid common pet emergencies. You will help keep summer fun and laid back for you and your pet!

Dr. Alison Birken

Dr. Alison Birken is a small animal veterinarian in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. She owns Victoria Animal Hospital, is the co-founder of Forever Freckled, wife to her amazing husband Rob, mom to her 3 greatest accomplishments Luke, Leah & Hayden and dog mom to her Saint Bernard Dory

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