As the weather kicks it up a notch, the natural tendency can be to get everyone up and out of the house, pets included. While spending more time outdoors can be a great source of exercise and fun for all involved, and summer is one of the best times of year for people and dogs, but if you’re not careful, it can also be a dangerous time for your pup. To make sure everyone has a fun and safe summer here are the facts about potential dangers and tips to ensure a fun, safe summer.
There are two major reasons pets get overheated, hyperthermia and their upper respiratory systems. Hyperthermia occurs when animals are trapped in an environment (like a car or the beach on a hot day) that overwhelms their ability to cool themselves. Pets with compromised upper airways, like bulldogs, or an acquired condition like paralysis of the larynx have more difficulty removing heat in their bodies through panting. These animals often find that, in attempting to cool themselves, they generate more heat through exertion and can fall victim to heat stroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive panting or labored breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling and mild weakness, according to the ASPCA. More severe symptoms can include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomiting and a body temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pets are smarter than we give them credit for, and prefer staying at home and laying on cool surfaces (like your tiled kitchen floor) in the heat of the day. Save your outdoor time with your pet for early in the morning or in the evening once the sun has set. By taking your daily walk, run or visit to the park either before or after the sun is at its hottest, the air will be easier for your pet to breathe and the ground will be cooler on the pads of their paws. If you do find yourself out at midday with your pet, make sure you keep them out of direct sunlight or give them a shady place to get out of the sun. Remember, your pets don’t wear shoes, so the pads of their paws can be burned walking across particularly hot sand or asphalt. If it’s extremely warm, keep them indoors as much as possible.
The classic mistake for owners is leaving a pet in a closed car on a sunny warm day when the temperature in your car can rapidly climb to over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s solar heating that’s the culprit, so you can face serious risks even on a comfortable day. As much as your pet may love riding in the car or spending time with you, if it’s hot out and there’s a chance they’ll be uncomfortable the best thing to do is leave them alone. Panting takes more exertion than sweating and can bring your pet to respiratory distress faster than you think. Avoid any potential issue by keeping them safe and cool at home.
In addition to overheating, pets can get dehydrated quickly, so you’ll want to make plenty of fresh, clean water available to them. Panting is effective in allowing animals to cool down because it helps evaporate fluids from the respiratory tract. Help replace these fluids and prevent dehydration by leaving out water or water alternatives throughout the day, particularly when your pet has spent time outside in the heat. Water alternatives are especially great for pets since they replenish electrolytes and taste great. If your pet is brachycephalic — or has a flat-shaped face — like Pugs, Pekingese, Boston terriers and Persian cats, they cannot pant as effectively and are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be especially careful with breeds like these in hot weather and keep plenty of water on hand. The ASPCA also advises that pets which are elderly, overweight and have heart or lung disease be kept in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible in the heat.
Many pet owners, especially cat parents, incorrectly think that shaving their animals in the heat will help cool them down. In reality, the layers of your pet’s coat help to protect them from overheating and sunburn. Trimming long hair is perfectly okay, according to the ASPCA, but it’s unnecessary to do anything else for cooling purposes. Brushing your cat more often to help remove loose fur can also prevent overheating.
Here are a few recommendations for you and your family to help your dog have a happy and healthy summer:
- Make sure you provide plenty of water. Have a Handi-Drink Pet Water Bottle nearby is the perfect way to provide clean fresh water.
- Never leave your dog in the car – even for a few minutes – in the heat. Just a few short minutes in these conditions can lead to irreversible organ damage or death.
- Protect your pet from the damaging rays of the sun. If you have a white, or lighter colored dog, areas of the body (tops of ears and nose) can sunburn. Applying a pet specific sunscreen may help prevent sunburn.
- Watch out for heatstroke. If you do vigorous exercise with your dog, make sure you exercise in the cooler hours of the morning or evening.
- Better yet, go swimming with your dog! Play fetch with a water toy. This way both of you can keep cool!
Fortunately, many pet product manufacturers know how difficult it can be to keep a pet cool in summer and now make products to help pet owners.
Here are some great ideas for homemade frozen dog treats to help your pet cool off. Keeping your pet safe during the summer heat isn’t difficult if you know what to look out for.