Warm weather can be dangerous for our pets. It’s hard for pets to keep cool when the sun is beating down, and that’s because animals don’t sweat like people do. You probably knew that dogs cool themselves through panting, but did you know that they sweat through their paws too? When there is only hot air for a dog to breathe, it’s a lot harder for that dog to keep cool. And while cats tend tolerate the heat a little better than dogs, and even prefer it (we’ve all seen a cat stretched out on a sunny windowsill), that doesn’t mean that you should forget about your cat this summer.
1. NEVER, ever, EVER leave your pet in a hot car. It can take minutes – yes, MINUTES – for a pet to develop heat stroke and suffocate in a car. Most people don’t realize how hot it gets in parked cars. On a 78 degree day, for instance, temperatures in a car can reach 90 degrees in the shade and top 160 degrees if parked directly in the sun. Always leave your pet home on warm days. If you’re driving around with your dog or cat in the car, bring water and a water dish and take your pet with you when you if you leave the car.
2. Keep your pets paws in mind. When the sun is cooking, surfaces like asphalt or metal can get really hot. Keep your pet off of hot asphalt; not only can it burn paws, but it can also increase body temperature and can lead to overheating. It’s a bad idea to drive around with your dog in the bed of a truck – the hot metal can burn paws quickly (and they can easily fall out to be injured or killed.
3. Make sure your pet is protected from parasites like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. If your pet is not protected, your pet is at risk for heartworm, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a host of other nasty and dangerous conditions. Don’t forget, many of these diseases can be caught by people, too!
4. Your pet should always have access to fresh water and shade. Our pets, especially dogs, get much thirstier than we do when they get hot, and other than panting and drinking, they really have no way to cool themselves down. Also, get your pet in the shade as often as possible. While dogs and cats like to sunbathe, direct sunlight can overheat them (especially dogs) and cause heat stroke. Compared to humans, dogs are not very efficient at staying cool. As such, they are more susceptible to overheating. With a normal body temperature higher than ours, 100 to 102.5 compared to our 98.6, dogs also have smaller sweat glands (in their paws and nose) and pant to cool down. In warmer months, it is particularly important to provide your dog with fresh cool drinking water at all times it helps them to cool down.
5. If your dog loves to swim, give him his very own “kiddy pool.” Dogs who love the water love it even more in the hot months and getting wet keeps them cool. Providing a small, kid-sized pool will also keep them safe, be sure to keep the pool in the shade so that the water doesn’t over heat and add water daily.
6. Just because dogs instinctively know how to swim doesn’t mean they’re good swimmers. And if they jump in your swimming pool, they might not be able to get out without help and could easily drown. Make sure your dog can’t get into your swimming pool without you around. And if that’s not possible, make sure he can get out on his own. Certain breeds are more susceptible to drowning, though they may try their best —those with large, heavy chests in relation to their hindquarters, and they often have short muzzles. These dogs may swim well enough to splash about a little under supervision while wearing a life vest, but that’s about it. The most extreme example of these breeds, the Bulldog, is so poorly built for water survival that breeders and rescue groups often require a home check to ensure that a pool is safely fenced off, and that an emergency monitor is used to alert those inside the house when something, such as a child or dog, breaks the surface of the water. Bulldogs typically sink like rocks. Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Pugs and other short nosed breeds as well as the Maltese should never be in water unsupervised and without a life vest.
7. Believe it or not, dogs and cats can sunburn, especially those with short or light-colored coats. And just like for people, sunburns can be painful, overexposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer. Talk to your veterinarian about sunscreens for your pet (don’t assume a sunscreen for people is appropriate for your dog). Some dog breeds are more susceptible to heat injuries, including: Chows, Malamutes, Huskies, American Eskimos, Newfoundlands, Bulldogs, Pugs, Shar-peis, and Boston terriers. The first five breeds on this list, have double coats and are bred for colder climates, a good summer haircut and regular brushing are essential in the summer. Regular brushing helps to reduce extra heat-storing fur and is recommended for all dogs in the summer months. Don’t have your dog shaved down, however, as this can increase the risk of sunburn.
8. If you can’t trust your dog 100% to come when called, keep him on a leash. Summertime means all sorts of exciting sights, scents, critters running around, and new and exciting places to explore. You never want to lose your pet because he she became distracted in an unfamiliar environment and was lost or harmed in an accident. So remember, not every dog is meant to be off-leash; some dogs just can never be fully trusted to come when called. Make sure you understand your dog’s tendencies and err on the side of being overly-cautious. Take your dog for walks early in the morning or late in the evening.
9. This one’s for the cats: keep your windows screened! We all know cats love windowsills. You may want your house to be ventilated, but you definitely do not want your kitty to fall out!
Most important, pay attention to your dog and cat – you’ll know when they seem uncomfortable. Summer can be a great time to spend with your dog or cat, but it’s important to keep these tips in mind as the days grow longer. Make sure you talk with your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you have about your pets in warm summer weather.