Pet Lifestyles

Trish Consunji: 916-649-0599 (California Veterinary Medical Association)



(Sacramento, CA) As we enjoy the last weeks of summer, our family pets are often by our side. This active season is the ideal time to become aware of healthy habits to prolong your pet’s well being, make it more comfortable and maybe even save its life.

“A healthy lifestyle will make you and your animals happy for the long run,” says California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) past-president Eric Weigand, DVM. “The same choices we humans make for ourselves—avoiding excessive heat and sun exposure, preventing insect bites, getting adequate exercise, and watching out for aging, aching bones—can do wonders for our pets.”

This is a particularly tough season for animals. Not only are the temperatures high, but an overly wet spring left us with inviting fields of tall grasses housing an overabundance of fleas and ticks as well as foxtails and burrs. Of course our pets want to join in on summer fun, so it is up to us to protect them from the dangers of summer with the CVMA Summer Survival Guide:

Avoid Direct Sun and Intense Heat

• Animals need protection from high temperatures and sun exposure. Since we can’t slather them with sunscreen, give outdoor pets shade protection under an overhang, umbrella, or tree, especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Do not encourage exercise during hot, muggy, or “spare the air” afternoons and evenings. Like you, your pet will be healthier indoors, taking advantage of the comfort of air conditioning or a fan.

• Never leave an animal in an unattended vehicle, even when running a quick errand. Every year overheated pets die in hot cars, despite open windows for ventilation.

• Make plenty of water available at all times. Pets can and do become dehydrated.

Prevent Fleas and Ticks

• One flea can bite multiple times a day, leaving your animal itching and irritable. Fleas also lay eggs and carry tapeworms. Combing will not get rid of fleas but will let you see the tiny reddish-black specs caught in the hair. Specially made flea combs are also available.

• Checking for ticks is paramount since they can carry disease. Combing after outdoor time, and a daily grooming routine that has you checking for bumps where the pests are, should be a summertime ritual. That is also a good time to check for foxtails or burrs.

• If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers and disinfect the area. Grasp the tick at the skin level and carefully pull out with easy pressure.

• Your veterinarian can prescribe flea and tick treatments that not only kill the insects and their eggs but with regular use, prevent their return.

Get Adequate Exercise

Whether reptile or bird, canine or feline, all animals need exercise, and your veterinarian knows the proper routine, considering the age and fitness level of your pet.

• Dogs: If unaccustomed to exercise, start out slowly with 10-minute walks. Work up to longer walks or running. Always protect your dog by using a leash; it’s the law and should not be ignored.

• Cats: Encourage exercise by supplying toys for jumping, strings for chasing, boxes for climbing, and scratching posts for stretching.

• Birds: For large birds reluctant to move a muscle, let them stand on your arm while you lightly “bounce” it. Birds naturally flap their wings to maintain balance. For small birds, obtain a horizontal cage that allows them to fly back and forth.

• Exotics: Most turtles, mice, geckos, hamsters, and gerbils get enough exercise moving around their cages. Larger animals, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and tortoises, benefit from being let outside to stretch, provided there is protection from predators and no chemicals in the grass. Snakes and reptiles may love a chance to slither through a pool of shallow water.

Protect Aging Pets

Older pets are prone to osteoarthritis, typically affecting hip joints. Losing weight is the simplest solution. As with humans, excess pounds add considerable stress on arthritic joints. Putting the animal on a diet should lead to ease of movement. For dogs, choose leisurely walks instead of pounding jogs or playing fetch, since retrieval motions are especially jarring on hip joints. A pond or pool where your dog can swim provides great exercise.

Above all, the CVMA urges pet owners to ask their veterinarians for advice on any summer survival issues affecting their animals. To access past CVMA press releases, visit the CVMA Media Center in the News Room at


The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 7,000 members. Founded in 1888, its mission is to serve its membership and community through innovative leadership and to improve animal and human health in an ethically and socially responsible manner.

© 2020 California Veterinary Medical Association

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