Keep Your Family Pet Safe and Healthy

Considering the Safety of All Family Members

Your pet is part of the family. And just like any other family member, pets deserve to be cared for and protected. The first step in keeping your pet safe and healthy is to know what is normal for your pet – their gum color, heart/pulse rate, body temperature and breathing rate – so you can recognize when something is wrong.

Follow these important steps to help keep your pet at their best:

  • Give your pet plenty of exercise. Regular exercise will help your pet feel better and live longer.
  • Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, cool water.
  • Get to know a veterinarian and make sure your pet has yearly checkups.
  • Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines, especially rabies.
  • Get your pet spayed or neutered.
  • Keep dogs on leashes outside – another animal may be too much temptation.
  • Know how to perform CPR and provide basic First Aid until veterinary care is available. Pet First Aid courses are offered at many locations throughout the country.

Be Extra Vigilant in Warm Weather

Heat stroke is a common problem for pets in warm weather. Dogs with short noses or snouts, like the boxer or bulldog, are prone to heat stroke. This is also true for any obese pet, a pet with an extremely thick fur coat or any pet with upper respiratory problems such as laryngeal paralysis or collapsing trachea. Remember that animals love to play and may not stop playing, even if they are becoming overheated.

Some signs your pet may be developing heat stroke include heavy panting, and being unable to calm down, even when lying down. Their gums may be brick red, their pulse rate may be fast, or they may not be able to get up. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, take their temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105 degrees cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees. Bring your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

Never leave your pet alone in the car, even for a few minutes, and even with the windows cracked open. During warm weather, the inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.

Pet owners also need to be aware that animals may try to get out a window or door, which are more likely to be open as the weather warms. And spring planting can be hazardous to animals – do not use plants which are poisonous to animals. For instance, many lilies are very poisonous to cats. Visit the ASPCA Poison Control web site to find out which plants and flowers are poisonous to animals.

Your Pet in an Emergency

Don’t forget to include your pets in emergency action plans as well. Visit our Pets and Disaster Safety page for complete information.

The Red Cross has also developed Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid, comprehensive guides with DVDs to help your keep pets healthy and safe. From basic responsibilities, like spaying/neutering and giving medications, to performing CPR and preparing for disasters, these guides offer information pet owners can trust.