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Pets are great summer travel companions, but keep them safe

Ten-year-old Bronko at the Eisenhower Park Dog Run,

Ten-year-old Bronko at the Eisenhower Park Dog Run, Wednesday May 26, 2021. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Unexpected hazards may mar summer getaways with pets, experts caution, relating cases of dogs swallowing barbecue skewers or getting poisoned by frogs, and cats mystified by strange litter or drawn to harmful plants.

And yet the joys of exploring the country — or venturing overseas where permitted — in the post-vaccine era with the very same critters who eased the isolation of quarantines has a natural appeal. Vacations with pets do seem popular, judging by posts on social media and comment from veterinarians.

Much about staying safe can be distilled into just one overarching recommendation, according to Dr. Mark Freeman, clinical assistant professor of community practice at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, who . vacations with a pack of 15 chihuahuas — all rescues and their immediate offspring.

"I think probably the most rational approach to pets on vacation is — regardless of how well-behaved your pet is at home, if you are on vacation, in different circumstances, in different situations, with things they are not accustomed to being in contact with, it’s really going to be advisable to keep you pet on a leash at all times," he said in a phone interview..

That way, the human holding the leash can intervene — should a pet, for example, spy a Florida toad that protects itself by coating its skin with toxins.

As soon as next week, dog- and cat-tempting cicadas may begin emerging on Long Island after their 17-year slumber, according to Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an entomologist at Cornell University.

"Most dogs find them quite fascinating," Dr. Freeman said. If they eat too many, however, they risk "vomiting and diarrhea, stomach and intestinal pain, and even the possibility of an obstruction if they ingest too many shells which then can't pass through."

Much of the veterinarians' advice is what would make sense for humans too. "Pets are prone to weekend warrior syndrome on vacation as well as on weekends," said Cornell University’s Dr. Leni Kaplan.

"Similar to people, if your pet has not been exercising regularly or going on long walks and hikes, they could be more prone to injury if they are suddenly engaging in more demanding physical activities."

Take safeguards and do the research: microchip pets in case they run off, pack their medical records and learn about natural hazards may arise in a vacation spot, said Dr. Carly Fox, an Animal Medical Center emergency room veterinarian in New York City. For her webinar on summer travel with pets see:

With cats, balconies and high windows can tempt them into disastrous falls, Dr. Fox said. "Prevention is key," she said.

Even the beach or a barbecue can be hazardous: some dogs swallow fish hooks or too much salt water or sand. Even a stray corn cob can prove fatal.

Increasingly, vets advise boarding large dogs, especially for short-duration, long-distance trips, instead of flying them in cargo, which has proved fatal for some. "No one is watching them and you don’t really know what the temperature is, and they could be there for several hours, " Dr. Fox said.

And "Please just never, ever leave your dog in a parked car."

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