Expert Advice on How to Protect Pets from Ticks, Allergies, Fireworks and Other Summer Dangers

Jenna Stregowski, a registered veterinary technician and the pet health and behavior editor at Daily Paws, shared her tips for keeping pets safe and happy during the season ahead

Dog scratching ear while looking up and sitting in green grass.
Photo: More Than Words Photography by Alisa Brouwer/Getty

It's National Pet Week, a great time to start preparing cats and dogs for the season ahead, so everyone has an enjoyable summer.

For help learning how to avoid pet summer bummers, PEOPLE spoke to Jenna Stregowski, a registered veterinary technician and pet health and behavior editor at Daily Paws.

Stregowski shared her tips on what pet owners need to know about ticks, fireworks, allergies, and more before summer starts — and what can be done to prepare pets for the best summer ever.

Read on to learn more about how you can avoid a trip to the vet by knowing what summer plants are toxic to pets and the signs of heat exhaustion, and for pet advice from Stregowski, visit Daily Paws.

What should pet owners know about the 2022 tick season?

Experts are predicting a higher-than-average risk from vector-borne diseases, including those carried by ticks, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council and Veterinary Practice News. However, ticks are a potential risk all year round.

What are the best ways to protect your pet against ticks?

Pet parents can best protect cats and dogs from ticks by using tick prevention products all year long. New products emerge on the market periodically, so your vet is the best source of advice when choosing the right tick prevention product for your pet.

It's also a good idea to check pets for ticks after they have spent time outdoors. Ticks often hide in tall grasses and brush, waiting for a host. They can attach to any part of a pet's skin but are usually found near skin folds as well as in and around the ears. Ticks should be removed with tweezers or a tick removal tool, taking care not to squeeze the tick as this can release pathogens.

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What pests, besides ticks, should pet parents be aware of this summer?

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes, so it's most common in warm weather. Heartworms cause serious complications in the heart and lungs of dogs, and treatment for heartworm disease is risky. Though less common in cats, heartworms can cause severe damage to a cat's lungs and cannot be treated.

Fleas are especially active in warmer months. While fleas may seem like a minor nuisance, a flea infestation can cause intense itching that may lead to skin problems or anemia. Intestinal parasites can be present in the environment all year long but are especially common in warm months.

The American Heartworm Society recommends all dogs receive year-round heartworm prevention Fortunately, many heartworm prevention products also protect dogs from common intestinal parasites. Some even include flea and/or tick control. There are also separate products for flea and tick control. Pet parents should talk to their vets about the best products for their dogs.

What are common outdoor plants that are dangerous to pets?

Azaleas, chrysanthemums, daffodils, English ivy, lilies, oleanders, sago palms, tulip/narcissus bulbs, and yew plants are all common plants, plentiful in the spring and summer, that are toxic to pets.

How can I prepare my pet for summer fireworks?

Sudden loud noises can scare our pets, even the most confident ones. Pet parents can help their pets by providing a safe space in their homes for pets to go when they are frightened by fireworks. Consider a crate or small room in the most sound-proof area of your home. Provide plenty of soft, warm bedding and distract your pet with toys or games. Playing a recording of white noise or soft music can help cover some of the firework sounds (and other loud noises like thunder).

What pet allergies are common in the summer?

Animals can develop allergies to many substances in the environment, including pollen from trees, grasses, and other plants, mold, feathers, and even dander from wild animals. While allergens can be present any time of year, they are especially prevalent in spring and summer (particularly pollen). Many of these allergens cause pets to react with itchy, irritated skin that ranges from mild to severe. Talk to your vet about the best treatment plan, which may include antihistamines, anti-itch medications, shampoos, sprays, and more.

What are the signs of heat exhaustion in a pet? How can you protect your pet from the heat?

Heat exhaustion can develop suddenly and quickly advance to heatstroke, which is a veterinary emergency.

Signs of heat exhaustion include: elevated rectal temperature (103 to 103.9 is heat exhaustion; over 104 degrees is heatstroke and requires immediate action — go to the nearest open vet), heavy panting, extreme lethargy, dark or bright red gums, tacky-feeling gums, thick saliva.

If the pet collapses or loses consciousness, it might be heatstroke.

Keep cool, fresh water available to your pet at all times. Take frequent breaks for rest, shade, and water while out with your pet in the summer heat. At the very first signs of heat exhaustion, pets should be moved to a cool, shady location and observed closely. When in doubt, call your vet for advice.

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What are some other safety concerns specific to summer?

Summer means spending more time outdoors, but there are a number of hazards to keep in mind beyond heatstroke, parasites, and toxic plants. The presence of wildlife can kick your pet's curiosity and prey drive into high gear. Try to prevent your pet from chasing wild animals. The venom from snakes and scorpions may cause toxicity. Insect and animal bites and stings can lead to infections or allergic reactions. Mammals like squirrels, skunks, and raccoons may carry rabies or parasites. Skunks can easily spray pets — it's a nightmare to clean up, and the wild animal's oily spray can irritate pets' eyes.

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