Considered the unofficial kick-off to summer, Memorial Day Weekend seems to bring out the summer swimmers, boaters, barbequers and weekend travelers in many of us.  That means things we haven’t been doing the last several months, will again be new, exciting and could even be dangerous for our pets!  Please supervise, supervise, supervise, and keep the following in mind while having fun…



With their unmatched sense of smell, food grilling outdoors is a treat not to be missed by the canine nose.  Some dogs are even bold enough to grab food from the grill, resulting in 2nd degree burns to the snout, mouth and paws — an immediate medical emergency!

Charcoal briquettes (soaked with the juices of grilling meats) chomped upon can upset the stomach (if not burn all the way down) but if swallowed whole, they can block the intestines!  Add to that the poisoning implications if they are soaked with lighter fluid.

As for the picnic itself, the salty chips, fried chicken and other highly seasoned foods or greasy foods are not good for dogs or cats.  They don’t metabolize them like we do and can end up with a severe inflammation of the pancreas!  Never give cooked bones and avoid giving dogs foods that contain onions such as potato salad.  Many fruits and vegetables are awesome PAWSome (the raw flesh of peaches, apples, watermelon, bananas, zucchini and carrots for instance – but keep seeds and pits away), but dogs must not consume grapes, raisins, chocolate or food (such as sugarless gum) containing the sweetener Xylitol. These can lead to ailments from minor stomach upset to death!  Also, keep corncobs out of paws reach.  Not only can they be a choking hazard, but also create an intestinal blockage.

Make sure dogs and cats both have a quiet place to retreat to during the noisy festivities, and emphasize to guests the need to not leave doors or gates open for even a second!


Whether your weekend includes a trip to the beach, the backyard pool or a boat trip, there are some Must Dos if Fido tags along.  The best human swimmers can get caught in an undertow or fatigue, and all dogs DO NOT know how to swim, do be sure pets near water are suited up with a properly fitting life vest.  Best yet, The Pet Safety Crusader™ LOVES the HedzUp Water Collar that keeps your dog’s head out of the water even if he goes unconscious.  Short-necked breeds like bulldogs and pugs, have a difficult time keeping their heads afloat, so the humans who came up with this flotation device, really have our dogs best interest at heart!  Use PROMO CODE: CRUSADER for 15% off!

Since the days are getting warmer, it’s vital you keep pets well-hydrated all day long.  Make sure a water bowl is available, in a shady location, and always filled to the rim.  Drinking salt water can lead to serious dehydration, and lakes and ponds may have bacteria and intestinal parasites that can result in Giardia (massive quantities of vomit & diarrhea that can be passed along to you), Leptospirosis (which severely affects the kidneys), Algae poisoning and other bacterial infections.  Bring along enough water for Fido as well and wash him off quickly if he has been in any body of water, so he doesn’t ingest its contents when he grooms himself, and dry out those ears!



Bugs & Pet First-Aid

If you haven’t already, it is time to speak with your veterinarian about flea, tick and heartworm deterrent.  Although most of us think these problems are confined to certain areas of the country, disease has spread with travelling and relocated pets, and heartworm can be found all the way to the West Coast!   Know how to safely remove a tick.  I count on tweezers by TickEase® to help me do the job, but often start off by placing a cottonball soaked in either dish soap or rubbing alcohol on the tick first to see if he’ll back out of the pet.

Have other first-aid supplies on hand as well in case you need to bandage a cut paw, soothe an upset canine tummy or treat a big sting! All of these skills, and a whole lot more, can be learned in a number of my books or classes offered at  The best pet parents stay prepared and bone-up on their skills regularly so that they can go on auto-pilot when Fido or Fluffy needs them most.



Travel & Weather

Make sure pets have properly fitting collars and harnesses.  The super tough ones by DigIt don’t absorb odors and have a special patented buckle and loop to keep ID tags separate from the leash hook!  Which brings me to…ID TAGS & MICROCHIPS.  Make sure tags are securely attached with the most up-to-date info (including your cell phone or number you can be reached at while travelling) and are easy to read.  Also confirm microchip info is correctly in a database.

If you don’t have a doggie seatbelt or kitty carrier that can be safely secured to a car seat, what are you waiting for?  Cars going 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 mph may stop when you slam on the brakes, but your pet will continue at the speed until something stops him – mainly the back of a seat or the windshield!  Never let pets roam freely in a car for your sake and theirs!  Visit to find products carrying their seal of approval.

Plot out Animal Emergency Centers along your route just in case something isn’t quite right with your furry best friend and research well BEFORE you emBARK.  Many places that claim to be “pet friendly” have a different definition than what YOU believe.  Some only allow pets 20 lbs. and under, some ban certain breeds or species while others, although seemingly welcoming, have no outdoor grassy areas for your pet to answer nature’s call.  Don’t get caught by surprise, ask questions and reconfirm answers.

Don’t take pets into situations they could find upsetting, loud concerts in the park, too large crowds, fireworks or even places without shade and grass.  Having a four-legged travel buddy can be awesome, but you CAN NOT EVER leave him alone in a parked car for even a few minutes.  Even with windows open, a parked car can quickly reach more than 150 degrees resulting in heat stroke, permanent brain damage or death to your pet.

Hot concrete & asphalt can burn precious paws!  If it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for paws.  Walk during the cooler parts of the day and stick to grass and shady areas.  Dog shoes are great on hot surfaces for short periods of time, but since heat is expelled from the pads of the feet, you dog is likely to overheat if his paws are covered for long.

Hot weather brings out snakes of all kinds.  Your best safety device is keeping control of your dog by having him on a leash.  Should your pet get bitten by a rattlesnake, keep him calm and immediately transport him to an animal care center that carries anti-venin.


There is much holiday fun to be had with your best canine or feline by your side, but know their limits, be vigilant to their health and safety needs, and be in the moment with them like they are with you to make precious memories together!




Denise Fleck is an award winning author and freelance writer.  After extensive training, practice, more training and more practice, she developed her own Pet First-Aid & CPR curriculum and has been teaching animal life-saving skills for close to 20 years with many success stories to share.  Additionally she developed a 5 month long Animal Care course for high school students in conjunction with the Burbank Unified School District and Animal Shelter.  She has demonstrated animal life-saving skills on CBS –TV’s “The Doctors,” Animal Planet’s “Pit Boss,” “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life” and countless other shows. To complement her teachings, Denise created a line of Pet First-Aid Kits, posters and books for children teaching animal respect and care!  Visit or call (818) 951-7962.

Note:  The articles on this page are copyrighted.  Please do not reprint or use portions for any purpose without written permission from the author.  Request permission for usage by sending an email explaining how you’d like to use the materials and what parts specifically.  Thank you in advance!