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Whether you’re going on a road trip or basking in the Australian sun from the comfort of your own home, no matter where pet owners spend their summer, they must consider the safety of their pet during this busy part of the year.

To ensure all pet parents can enjoy a safe summer with their buddy, PETstock VET Dr Kathy Macmillan has compiled an essential summer survival guide.

New Year’s Eve

While loud parties and fireworks are loads of fun for us pet parents, they can be quite frightening for our four-legged family members. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can help calm them down! A Thundershirt is an anti-anxiety weighted coat for dogs, that can help to calm their nerves if they
are feeling anxious, overexcited or fearful, in response to the loud noises and bright lights of New
Year’s Eve. The gentle, constant pressure of a Thundershirt has a calming affect on a dog’s
nervous system and is a safe and drug free solution to help combat your dog’s anxiety.

Not only can music reduce the anxiety levels of pets, but it can also help them to better cope with other psychological triggers such as loud noises or fireworks. Much like humans, music sends soundwaves that are processed by your pet’s brain which can cause them to react in a variety of different ways. For instance, loud and sudden noises can incite an increase in adrenaline, while repetitive and gentler sounds will often relax their nervous system. To soothe your dog’s nerves, try leaving on a calming playlist or DOGTV’s relaxation program which features music that is scientifically designed to support the anxiety that our pets can experience. Monthly and annual subscriptions to DOGTV are available exclusively at PETstock stores or online.

Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise, whether it be a long walk, run or trip to the dog park, before the New Year’s Eve celebrations begin. Just like humans, dogs receive endorphins after exercise, allowing them to feel a natural high and be happy. Even better, allowing your dog to run freely, socialise and interact with other dogs at the park can further decrease feelings of anxiety. On New Year’s Eve, a well exercised, calm dog is less likely to engage in anxious behaviours such as barking or chewing at the furniture.

If you’re heading out on New Year’s Eve, consider leaving your pet with a new enrichment toy such as a Kong or food puzzles. Giving your dog, cat or rabbit a ‘job’ to do will keep them mentally stimulated, offer a sense of comfort and help manage their anxiety or boredom. However, it’s important that you identify the cause of their anxiety so you’re not at risk of reinforcing the issue.

Microchip

Dogs are more likely to escape on nights like New Year’s Eve in response to loud noises, large crowds of people, unfamiliar surroundings and a change to their normal routine, and during the holidays in general as people are coming and going. Under unusual circumstances, your pet may get frightened and attempt to run away or hide as a result. In the case that your furry friend does make a break for it, make sure they are microchipped or update any new details on the microchip registry, and ensure they’re wearing an ID tag so that they can be easily returned.

Housekeeping

Before the Christmas or New Year’s festivities begin, there are a number of precautions we can take to protect pets within the home. It’s a great idea to keep all windows and curtains closed, to minimise the impact that fireworks can have on pets. Animals, such as rabbits, who are usually kept outdoors should be brought into the home or some other quiet, enclosed space such as the garden shed on New Year’s Eve. When it becomes dark, ensure cats are kept indoors and have access to as many hiding places as possible. This means you should open doors to rooms that your cat wouldn’t normally have access to.

Car Safety

Even if it’s just for a ‘quick’ trip to the shops, you must never leave your pet unattended in a car, especially during the warmer months. The temperature inside a car can take as little as one to two minutes to rise from air-conditioned levels to ambient, and seven minutes to reach 40 degrees. Leaving them in a hot car can result in dehydration, heatstroke or even cause death. If you see another pet owner’s dog in a car and are concerned for its safety, you can call emergency services and explain the situation. If the car is in a public shopping centre or supermarket car park, approach the customer service desk and advise them of the situation along with license plate details so they can make a public announcement on their PA system to alert the owner.

Road Tripping 

When travelling in the car with your pet, check your local state laws for pet restraint requirements. If it’s not required by law, restraining your pet in the car enhances safety for your pet and other passengers. Making sure your buddy is secure by travelling with a drive harness and anchor, pet carrier or cargo barrier installed will ensure you and your pet’s safety during transit. Pets can’t distract you with the typical ‘are we there yet?’ questions, but there are other signs your pet can give to let you know when they’re feeling uncomfortable or bored. Regular pit stops with rest areas to stretch legs and toilet breaks should be mapped out in advance. 

Pet boarding  

Many pets who have never stayed at a boarding facility can show signs of anxiety and whether your four-legged family member is a dog or cat they will often adapt to their new environment differently. As dogs are usually very social, once they have settled into the kennel environment they will often enjoy themselves with the constant activity and the opportunity to make new friends. Cats are known for their independence which helps them adapt well to boarding. Your feline friend will be happy to just sit back, rest, eat and make friends with the staff. If you have time it is useful to consider short overnight stays to get your pet used to the boarding environment before your long trip away. Calming pheromones such as the Adaptil collar for dogs and Feliway spray for cats can also help your pet adapt better to being away from you. If your pet has not adjusted to being at a kennel or cattery in the past, or if they have anxiety issues it is worth talking to your veterinarian to discuss other options to make sure their stay is as comfortable as possible. 

Hot days 

As pets cannot sweat like people do, they will feel uncomfortably hot in warm weather before you do and are prone to heat related health problems. Keeping your pet comfortable on a hot day, whether you are at home or not, is your responsibility as a pet owner. Be careful about exercising dogs in hot weather, especially if you have a short-nosed ‘brachycephalic’ breed such as a Pug or a French Bulldog. On hot days go walking in the cool of the early morning or late in the evening or even take your dog swimming instead. Do not walk your dog on the road on hot days as the asphalt can become hot enough to burn their pads. Provide plenty of water for your pet to drink and make sure it is in a solid container that cannot be easily knocked over. Consider a frozen stuffed Kong as a fun way to help them keep cool. The most common signs of heat stroke in dogs include excessive panting, dullness, staggering, vomiting, collapse and even seizures. If you notice any of these signs, cover them in a wet towel and take them to your local vet immediately.

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