By Blair Foy
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
With the dog days of summer approaching, hot temperatures are not the only potential problems facing pets and their owners in the coming months.
For Michelle Riggs, getting her two dogs, Toby and Rocky, ready for summer meant a trip to her vet.
"They got their blood tested for heartworm," she said. "It was their annual check-up."
As Riggs considers Toby and Rocky to be a part of her family, the mother of three said she understands the responsibilities of being a pet owner.
"They are a lot of work," she said. "They are like kids, but I wouldn't want to be without one. They love you no matter what."
According to Dr. Jerry Berends, of the St. Charles Veterinary Clinic, heartworm, as well as flea and tick prevention, is a primary component for pet health during summer. These health care measures are available at veterinary offices.
In addition to heartworm prevention, another key aspect for summer pet care lies in the temperatures.
"Hot weather can be potentially fatal for an animal if they are not properly cared for," Berends said.
Keep pets cool and hydrated in warm temperatures, said Pam Zimmerman, a veterinary technician at the St. Charles Veterinary Clinic.
Allowing pets to sit in a vehicle is extremely dangerous.
"Never leave a pet in a car in summer heat," she said. "On a 90-degree day, with the window up, the inside temperature of a car can reach over 140 degrees. In 20 minutes, it is deadly."
Another aspect of summer pet care is the microchip identification system, which allows pets to be permanently identified by a veterinarian through an injected microchip.
According to Kimberly Radke, the shelter manager for Paws & Claws Humane Society in Rochester, the summer months pose an increased threat for lost or missing pets.
"Many animals are very fearful of fireworks and thunderstorms, and you will see them react differently during these times," she said. "We do not recommend that you take your animals with you to enjoy summer fireworks displays. The Fourth of July is one of the busiest times at the shelter for lost and missing dogs."
Although summer months require pet owners to take extra precautions for their animals' safety, Radke said warmer temperatures are also a welcoming time to bring a new addition into a home.
Time to bond
"Summer is a great time to add a new pet," she said. "It is a great time to get a new dog or puppy potty-trained before the colder months arrive. It is also a fun time to be outside and become active."
Paws & Claws takes measures to ensure that potential pets are healthy enough to be adopted.
"All of our animals are checked by a veterinarian. All shots are given and most are spayed and neutered before leaving the shelter, if they are old enough," Radke said. "We encourage all of our new pet owners to check with their own veterinarians to get on a schedule for heartworm treatments as well as flea and tick treatments."
While Toby and Rocky are the only pets right now for Riggs and her children -- Gavin, Kylee and Ian -- Riggs said her boxer and miniature pinscher are a wonderful part of her family.
"I have always loved dogs," she said. "I probably couldn't live without a doggie companion. My kids love them, especially my youngest."
Blair Foy is a Rochester freelance writer.