Health & Safety Tips for Summer's Dog DaysThe "three H's" of summer can take as much of a toll on the well-being of our pets as it does on us.

Dogs and cats suffer a range of summer health issues -- from skin irritations and sunburn to dehydration and heat exhaustion. Since they can't protect themselves, they need our help to be safe and healthy during the summer months.

Skin irritation and parasites. A pet's coat is his best protection from sun and parasites and also creates a layer of insulation to keep cool air near the skin so regular grooming is important:
  • Brush frequently to prevent matting, which can cause hot spots.
  • Shampoo often to remove dust and mold spores that can cause skin irritation.
  • Don't go overboard with summer haircuts. Unless a coast is badly matted, it's generally best not to shave it off.
  • Use a flea and tick prevention product to keep parasites at bay.
Sunburn and paw problems. Yes, dogs and cats do get sunburned, especially those with white or light coats and thin, short hair, so:
  • Apply a pet-safe sunscreen for days when pets spend long hours outdoors.
  • Keep pets out of direct sun during midday hours.
  • Walk the dog on grass, not asphalt, which can become hot enough to burn her paws.
Heat exhaustion and dehydration. Very young,, very old and overweight pets are at greater risk, but any pet can fall victim:
  • Don't exercise a dog in midday heat. Keep potty walks between noon and 4 pm short; take longer walks in the cooler early morning or evening hours.
  • Be sure outdoor pets have a shady spot where they can get out of the sun and plenty of fresh water throughout the day.
  • On very hot days, keep pets indoors in a room with air conditioning or a fan.
When it comes to heat and humidity, if you're uncomfortable, your pet is too. If you notice signs of heat stress like heavy panting, lethargy, lack of coordination or profuse salivation, wrap your pet in a cool, damp towel and get him to the vet as soon as possible.