Summer is upon us and you know what that means – blissful summer nights, warm sunny days, and a lot of time spent outdoors. While our favorite time of the year is bound to be full of fun, sun, and a lot of play time with our pets, it is important to remember to keep our furry family members safe and healthy amidst the heat.
The higher temperatures and long sunny days are one of the best things about the “dog days” of summer, but can pose some dangers to animals unless precautions and safety measures are taken.
We called upon an expert, Veterinarian Dr. Kristen Andrews, to educate pet owners about the effects of heat on our pets, possible dangers and how to prevent them, and pet health tips to keep in mind for the coming months. Remember, a safe summer for our dogs ensures it will be their favorite time of year too.
Here are Dr. Andrews’ most important summer safety tips for pets.
Never leave your pet in a parked car, not even for a few minutes.
On a day when it is 85°F outside, a car with its windows slightly opened can heat up to over 100°F in just 10 minutes! Even on seemingly mild days, an enclosed car can be deadly. Recent studies show that when it is 72°F outside, a car’s internal temperature can climb to 116°F within one hour. It can take as little as 10 minutes for a dog to sustain organ damage or even death when trapped in these temperatures so plan your day and travel to guarantee your dog is never left in the car.
Make sure your pet always has plenty of fresh, cool water every day in a bowl that won’t tip over.
If you are headed outdoors with your pet, be sure to bring along cool water and a portable bowl for them to drink from. Anytime your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from the heat and sun. Tarps and tree shaded areas are ideal as they won’t obstruct air flow. A dog house won’t provide relief from the heat and could actually make it worse for your pet.
Exercise your pet in the early morning or late evening hours when it’s a little cooler.
Make sure to adjust the time and intensity of exercise based on the temperature and humidity. Older dogs, young puppies, overweight pets, short nose breeds, pets not used to exercise, and pets with heart and respiratory problems are more likely to overheat in hot weather. Keep in mind that the street and sidewalks as well as the sand on the beach can be very hot and can burn their pads.
Use sunscreen on your pets when they are outside.
Pets with light colored skin or thin fur can sunburn easily and are more prone to skin cancer. If your pet will be outside in the sun a lot then use sunblock, yes, there is sunblock for pets! Be sure to apply it to exposed areas like the ears, nose, and even the belly for those pets who tend to lay in the sun.
Keep your pet well groomed.
While a haircut may help keep your pet cooler, cutting them too short can remove insulation against the heat and also make them more susceptible to sunburn. Keeping them free of mats and loose undercoat with regular brushing helps their coat to “breathe”.
Watch for signs of heatstroke.
Signs include: Sudden collapse, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, drooling profusely, panting excessively or difficult breathing, rapid heart rate, glazed eyes, wobbly or uncoordinated movement, stupor or coma, bright red or purple gums and/or tongue.
Important information about heatstroke.
If you suspect your pet is experiencing heat stroke, it is a life threatening emergency and you need to call your veterinarian right away! Immediately get your pet out of the heat and into an air-conditioned area and take their rectal temperature if possible- it will exceed 103°F with heat stroke. Offer your pet small amounts of cool water if they are not vomiting and are able to drink. Spray them with cool (not cold) water, especially on their head, neck, feet, chest, and belly as well as turning on a fan and point it in their direction. You can spray their paw pads, under their armpits, and groin area with isopropyl alcohol. Do NOT immerse your pet in ice or in ice-cold water. The goal is to decrease the body temperature normal in the first 10-15 minutes but then the cooling process needs to be slowed and monitored by your veterinarian as their temperature can drop dangerously low.
Make sure to use proper flea and tick prevention.
Flea and tick populations thrive in warm, humid environments, and are most prevalent in the summer months. They can pose serious health concerns such as the spread of Lyme disease, the transmission of tapeworms and cause allergy dermatitis, so it is important to use the proper flea and tick preventatives and treatments with your pets.