Help Your Furry Friend Beat the Summer Heat
Just like us, pets love summer! After all, what could be better than three whole months of every-day weather that’s perfect for swimmin’, grillin’, campin’ and road trippin’? But again, just like us, our fur babies need special care to avoid the hazards that come along with hot weather – and the activities that go with it.
As with any good thing, too much sun can be a problem for pets. Dehydration, heatstroke and – yes – sunburn can cause serious health problems for our pets. Certain breeds are more susceptible. This includes brachycephalic (flat-faced) canines such as pugs, Boston terriers and bull dogs, and Persian cats, whose anatomy makes it harder for them to pant effectively. And pets with short, light-colored coats can sunburn more easily.
With a little preparation and awareness, you can make sure that you and your pets have a blast this summer.
To keep them safe, limit your outdoor activities to the cooler daylight hours of early morning and dusk. Try to keep your pets indoors in a temperature-controlled environment during the hottest part of the day. Air conditioning is optimal, but keeping shades drawn and using fans helps too.
If your pets do venture outdoors during the heat of the day, make sure they have protected area – such as a covered patio or shady lawn – where they can lounge safely.
Humid climates are especially tough on pets during the summer months. Panting, which allows them to remove moisture from their lungs, is the main way pets cool themselves down. If the moisture content in the air is high, animals are essentially fighting a losing battle by panting. So, if you live in an area that’s especially sticky during the summer, be sure to keep an extra close eye on your furry friend.
Lots of H2O!
Keeping your pets properly hydrated is most important during the summer. Make sure they have plenty of cool water available morning, noon and night. Filling your pet’s bowl half way and placing it in the freezer overnight and then topping it off in the morning will help keep water cool throughout the day. Of course, you should always take plenty of fresh water with you on trips, and whether home or away, check to make sure your pet is drinking throughout the day.
And during the summertime, water’s not just for drinking! A shallow plastic kiddie pool is a great way to keep your dog cool. And if you’re lucky enough to have an actual backyard pool, letting your pup take an occasional dip is a fantastic idea as well. Just be sure to train your pooch how to enter and exit the pool safely before letting him or her dive in. Some breeds are also not great swimmers, so make sure to check with your veterinarian before offering your pooch a plunge.
Lakes, rivers, and oceans make for great summer swimming as well. But make sure the water is safe before you or your dog take a dip. Ensure that lakes and swimming holes are free from harmful contaminants such as chemicals, algae, and parasites. Avoid fast-moving streams and rivers, and check with lifeguards about rip tides and undertows at the beach. Finally, don’t allow your dog to drink toxic salt water, and if you head out on a boating trip, make sure your buddy wears a life jacket, too!
We all know most cats find water offensive at best and horrible at worst, so your chances of getting them to go for a swim are probably zilch. But since most kitties are fine with a little moisture on their fur, try wiping them down with a damp cloth to help keep them cool.
No hot cars!
We’ve all heard it a million times – but hearing it once more, loudly and clearly – can’t hurt. In hot weather, the temperature in a parked car can rise to a deadly level within minutes.
According to a San Francisco State University study, the temp can rise by 19 degrees in 10 minutes. It can jump by 29 degrees in 20 minutes and 34 degrees in 30 minutes. After an hour, the temperature can climb by 43 degrees to over 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Consequently, let’s keep this short and sweet: DON’T LEAVE YOUR PETS IN A PARKED CAR DURING THE SUMMER!
Put away the blade!
It may seem logical to kick off the summer by shaving your dog or cat. After all, who wants to wear a fur coat during the hottest months of the year? This is where we and our pets differ, however. Unlike your winter parka, our pets’ coats are designed to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It not only acts as an insulating layer that helps regulate their body temperature, it also protects their sensitive skin from the sun’s harmful rays. While a slight trim is fine, and extra brushing is encouraged, don’t give your pet a summer buzz cut without consulting your veterinarian first.
Unfortunately, besides sun, surf, and sand, summer also means fleas, ticks and mosquitos. That’s why it’s even more important not to miss a dose of your pet’s veterinarian-recommended medication to ward off parasites during the summer months.
And since we’ve already established that pets can get sunburned too, that means they also need sunscreen to protect their delicate skin – dogs especially. Check with your veterinarian about which products they recommend and apply a thin layer to the spots where they’re most likely to get burned, including the bridge of their nose, tips of their ears, belly and groin area. Never apply a spray sunscreen directly to your pet’s face. Instead, use a cotton ball.
Finally, make sure their paws are protected from hot outdoor surfaces. Reach down and touch that patio, deck or pavement – does it burn your hand? If so, it’s too hot for your pet to walk on. Make sure to postpone their walk until it’s cool enough, or walk on the grass instead. And be on the lookout for the signs of injured pads – including redness, visible blisters, limping, licking and chewing – throughout the summer. A veterinarian-recommended balm can help soothe sore paws, and doggie boots or socks can help protect them.
Know the warning signs!
Despite your best efforts, your pet may still encounter a condition that requires veterinary attention during the summer. That’s why it’s important to monitor them for issues such as dehydration, sunburn, bug bites and – most importantly – heatstroke. According to the ASPCA, the signs of heatstroke include excessive panting or labored breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling and mild weakness. More acute symptoms include a body temperature over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, seizure, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. If your pet experiences any of these symptoms, be sure to get him or her to a veterinarian right away.