Saving money on pet health costs in the summer months

Getting back to nature may not always be the best thing for pets. In fact, medical claims data shows that as pets spend more time outside in warm weather, they are more likely to be injured, suffer from heat stroke or be affected by a number of other ailments.

Of course, that doesn't mean pets need to be kept on a short leash just because it's nice out. Pet owners just need to take some precautions.

"Pets are treated more frequently in the warm months due to their increased exposure to the outdoors. Warm weather exposes pets to more insects, higher temperatures and bodies of water, such as swimming pools, lakes and oceans," says Dr. Carol McConnell, director of veterinary education and services for Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI). "High temperatures can lead to sunburn and heatstroke. Exposure to swimming pools can lead to ear infections or-worse-case scenario-a pet accidentally falling into a pool and drowning."

Dr. McConnell says her company sees a significant spike in veterinary claims during the warmer months. In February of 2005, for instance, her company paid on 12 claims that involved a pet stepping on an object such as glass and injuring its paw. That number jumped to 76 claims in June and 87 in July. Some of these injuries most likely required surgery, which averages about $574 for canines and $337 for cats.

Dr. McConnell suggests offsetting those costs by keeping a watchful eye on your pet and by purchasing pet insurance.

"Protecting your dog or cat with a pet health insurance policy is not only a smart decision prior to warm weather months, but all year round," she explains. Her company's insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for thousands of medical problems and costly procedures relating to accidents, illness or injury. Optional Vaccination & Routine Care Coverage is available as well.

The following facts from Dr. McConnell explain some of the most common warm weather injuries to pets:

• Foreign Bodies-Foxtails, a type of grass with sharp points, are common in dry, warm months. The sharp points often become embedded into pet paws, ears, eyes or noses. As a penetrating foreign body, the foxtail inevitably causes an infection.

• Stings/Bites-Insects and spiders of all shapes and sizes come out of their hiding places in the warm weather months. Mosquitoes congregate near pools of water. Dr. McConnell recommends ridding your yard of even the shallowest pools of water (including the toddler's pool) so mosquitoes don't breed. Additionally, pet owners should keep their pets away from bees, wasps and woodpiles that may harbor spiders.

• Heatstroke-Dr. McConnell recommends keeping pets indoors as much as possible during the warmest hours of the day (usually 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Never leave your pet in the car unattended.

• Burns-Hot sidewalks can be downright painful for pets and could account for the rise in claims for burns, says Dr. McConnell. In addition to burns on the paws, sunburns are more common in hot months, especially on body areas not protected by fur or dark skin.

• Ear Infections-These are frequently caused by water getting trapped in a dog's ear after swimming or bathing. If your pet is involved in water activities, speak to your veterinarian regarding specific ear-cleaning products that will help dry the ear canal after water exposure to prevent recurring ear infections.

• Near Drownings-Although relatively rare, cases of near drownings do increase in warm weather summer months. If this happens, be sure to keep the pet warm, and dry thoroughly with towels. Then, take the pet to the veterinarian immediately.

For more information on medical coverage for warm weather maladies, call (866) 823-5595 or visit

It's important to protect pets from common warm weather injuries.

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