Although it took a while to get here, warm weather is upon us with even hotter temperatures to come.
If you're new to Florida -- or even if you're a veteran Floridian but a new pet owner -- you also may be new to hot-weather precautions for pets.
Some of the same advice for people applies to pets, as well, because overheating is a danger that requires an "ounce of prevention" to keep your family safe in the summer.
The ASPCA recommends a seasonal visit to the vet for a checkup. This seems to be good advice for pets that are not in the best of health, that suffer from allergies, or that are getting way up in age.
If you're a new resident, it would be the perfect time to establish you and your pet with a vet.
If you've neglected to put your pet on heart worm preventive, don't wait even one more day. Call your vet now to schedule a heart worm check, which must be done before starting any preventive.
If you've been lucky enough to not have fleas populate your pet this spring, rest assured your luck will likely run out. The vet can recommend a safe and effective flea and tick control preventive.
If you think it's too hot to go jogging or for a walk, then it's too hot for your pet, too. If you have a steadfast routine, change it up and go early in the morning when it's cooler.
Sometimes going outside in the heat can't be helped. For instance, dog walkers who take shelter pets for a stroll can do so only when the shelters are open, typically from 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m., during the heat of the day.
If that's the case with your schedule, take along a bottle of water and a small dog dish to keep your companion hydrated. Don't let him drink from puddles or public dog dishes; you don't know what's lurking in that water.
Also remember that pets don't generally wear shoes, so if the pavement's too hot for you to go barefoot then it's too hot for your dog, too. Take him where you can walk on the grass (and be sure to take "poopy bags" in case he needs to leave a deposit on your neighbor's lawn).
Despite precautions, overheating is still a danger. Be sure you know the symptoms of heat exhaustion in pets; after all, they can't tell you they're starting to feel poorly.
The ASPCA advises to watch for excessive panting or difficulty breathing, rapid breathing and heartbeat, drooling, weakness or a dazed condition.
Remember that panting is a dog's way of releasing body heat, so if you must muzzle your dog, make sure he can open his mouth enough to pant. Those canvas cone-shaped muzzles are great, but they're quite form fitting, so you may want to invest in a different design for summer.
Heat exhaustion can lead to the much more dangerous heat stroke, which is life-threatening for all animals. Watch for heavy and loud breathing, staggering, and a bright red tongue or gums.
Veterinarians willtell you this is a medical emergency that requires immediate action. The Veterinary Hospital ofthe University of Pennsylvania advises to get the pet to a cool place ASAP and cool him down with cold compresses on his belly or completely wet him down. Then get him to a veterinarian or an animal ER as quickly as possible.
The ASPCA adds that animals with flat faces, such as pugs and Persian cats, are more vulnerable to heat stroke because they can't pant as effectively as other animals. They should be kept in the air-conditioning as much as possible.
Brushing and combing, in addition to making your pet feel loved, helps you check for those nasty fleas and ticks. Even smooth-coated dogs need grooming for this very same reason.
The ASPCA advises that brushing cats more often than usual canhelp prevent problems caused by the summertime heat.
It also recommends never shaving your shaggy dog (no matter how much you want to do that lion cut). They need that fur to regulate their body heat.
Some people think that all dogs are good swimmers, but that's not true. And even a pool can be a danger zone for a pooch unfamiliar with it.
The ASPCA says to never leave your pets unsupervised around a pool. Also, introduce them gradually to the water, and teach them where the steps are so they will know where to go when they get tired.
Try to keep pets from drinking pool water, as the chlorine and other chemicals can cause stomach distress.
If you take your dog on a boat, get him a doggie life preserver. Even the best canine swimmer can get into trouble in rough water and a life preserver will be his best chance for rescue.
Whether he's been swimming in a pool, the gulf or a river, rinse your dog after he's been swimming to remove chemicals and salt from his coat.
(And I speak from experience when I say that a dog that's been swimming in the river can smell pretty bad on the way home in the car.)
Dogs like a picnic just as much as people and ants do, so taking them along may be a great treat. Treat them in the great outdoors as you would at home: Keep them on a leash or in an enclosure, don't let them eat or drink people food, and keep them away from garbage.
Also be careful with chemicals such as citronella burners and insecticides, including those coils you can burn to ward off mosquitoes. Even if they're not lit, they can sicken a curious pet that decides to sample them as a snack.
First aid class
You can learn how to recognize and respond to medical emergencies that occur in canine and feline family members in a class that will be offered 1-4 p.m. June 18 at the H2U Cortez Center, 6670 Cortez Road, Bradenton.
Topics will include safe and proper restraint of an injured or ill animal, recognizing sudden illness, first aid for injuries, and when to go to the veterinarian.
H2U is an adult health and wellness organization sponsored by Blake Medical Center. Individuals pay a$20 annual membershipfee and become members of the national H2U program.
For more H2U program and benefits information and a membership application, call 941-792-0211. For class reservations, call 888-359-3552.
M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054. Follow on Twitter @Bradentonpets.