Warming temperatures, increasing sunshine and (hopefully) vacation time all mean more opportunities to spend time with a pet.

Stacy Busch-Heisserer, owner of Busch Pet Products in Cape Girardeau, has her own pup: a six-year-old beagle-border collie mix named Elsa.

At her Cape Girardeau business, she says she’s seen more and more “pandemic puppies” — animals adopted during COVID-19 lockdowns. For these new pet owners, summertime care in Southeast Missouri can be difficult to navigate. Here, Busch-Heisserer provides her top five tips for keeping your own Fido or Garfield safe throughout our region’s humid summer.

1. Have an insect-repellant plan in place.

Pest prevention is essential for keeping pets safe throughout the summer months. In humid areas such as Southeast Missouri, insects such as mosquitos have a huge presence, Busch-Heisserer says, and they can cause even bigger problems for your pooch. Heartworms can stem from contact with these pests, so having an insect-repellant plan is vital.

Busch-Heisserer says she advocates for a natural approach to keep cats and dogs safe. After speaking with a veterinarian, she says to search for a natural spray, water or food additive to ensure pets are less attractive to insects. Busch Pet Products carries Earth Animal Nature’s Daily Herbal Internal Powder and several essential oil sprays. She says it’s popular for pet owners to mix their own essential oil sprays; while she encourages the natural approach, she cautions about DIY-ing. Some oils — such as tea tree — may be toxic to cats, for example.

“If you do mix your own, which a lot of people do, just be sure that you’ve done your research on what oils are good,” she says.

2. Keep your pet cool.

Summertime often means spending more time outside — but rising temperatures often mean an increased risk of heat-related illnesses in pets. During hot, steamy summers, Busch-Heisserer says it’s important to take a few steps to keep outdoor animals cool.

“It’s ideal if they can be in the house when it’s hot outside; I’m sure that’s what they would prefer,” she says.

Providing water, shelter and shade helps keep cats and dogs cool. Pets cannot sweat like humans to regulate their own temperatures, Busch-Heisserer explains, so it’s especially important to keep an eye on them. Dogs may pant when overheated, Busch-Heisserer says, and cats pant when in heat-related distress. Providing shade, fresh water and a fan outside when it isn’t possible to bring pets indoors is the best option.

3. Write your pet into your summer vacation itinerary.

Many families look forward to summer road trips, but pet owners should keep their dog or cat in mind when trekking cross-country. Depending on the pet, boarding may be the best option.

“Rethink taking your pet if they aren’t the best traveler,” Busch-Heisserer says.

As more people are traveling with their pets, Busch-Heisserer says it’s important for individuals to plan for their pet when creating a travel itinerary. Stopping every couple of hours — up to four — for furry friends to use the bathroom or stretch their legs ensures they’re comfortable on long rides. Small dogs and cats can be kept in a carrier while riding in a car, while Busch-Heisserer recommends a travel harness for larger animals. She uses the harness for her own 30-pound dog and says the device restrains an animal in case of an accident.

For pets who feel a bit nervous in the car, Busch-Heisserer recommends trying a natural remedy. Pet-specific CBD oil and flower-based stress relief drops, found at Busch Pet Products, can help alleviate anxiety. ThunderShirts, which compress pets’ torsos targeting specific pressure points, operate in a similar calming way.

4. Remedy loud noises.

Speaking of thunder, summer storms may also create anxiety in some pets. In addition, other sounds of the season — such as Fourth of July fireworks — can freak out even the calmest of pets. Busch-Heisserer recommends the calming Rescue Remedy supplement drops from her store, which she says can evoke a sense of calm in an anxious animal. Whenever preparing for a stressful situation, Busch-Heisserer says to try calming techniques beforehand.

“It’s best with all these products to work with them in advance,” she says.

When training with ThunderShirts, she says to start with small increments of time and work up to your pet wearing it for hours. Pets are better equipped to respond to calming techniques when they’ve been introduced to them before, Busch-Heisserer says.

5. Suit up for the outdoors.

Exploring the outdoors can be a fun experience for both the pet owner and furry companion, but there’s a few things to consider before stepping outside. First, Busch-Heisserer advises to consult a veterinarian to ensure the dog or cat doesn’t have a medical condition which could be worsened through exercise.

If a pet’s joints are inflamed, walking or hiking may make this worse. When exploring areas such as Trail of Tears, Busch-Heisserer recommends having your pet wear booties to protect sensitive foot pads. Cat harnesses can provide a fun experience for house cats, while lighted collars or tags help protect animals at night.

“If you’re just going to do recreational things with your pet, make sure it’s something that’s not going to stress them out,” she says.

The bottom line: utilize the warm weather to spend time with pets, but keep their safety in mind. Busch-Heisserer says as people returned to work after lockdowns lifted, pet owners often had less time to spend with “pandemic puppies.”

“Try to carve out some quality time with your pet each day,” Busch-Heisserer says. “They don’t have a concept of time, so if they get some time with you, that’s better than no time at all.”

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