It is truly summertime now and the extreme heat, humidity and direct sunshine are serious health concerns for our dogs and cats. This is important to understand because our pets completely depend on us to protect them. Dogs and cats can get sunburned and short-nosed dog breeds known as brachiocephalic have great trouble cooling down through the normal mechanism of panting. Here are some important and practical tips to keep your pets comfortable and safe in the summer heat.
Just like people, animals need sun protection on the sensitive areas such as ear tips, noses and other hairless areas that are exposed to sunlight. Pets with pink skin or light-colored coats are most vulnerable. Staffordshire terriers, boxers, bull terriers, German shorthaired pointers and pit bulls are among the breeds most prone to sunburn, as well as felines with white ears, eyelids and noses. It is recommended to apply pet-friendly sunscreen that do not contain zinc oxide about 30 minutes prior to exposure.
Human’s cooling mechanism is primarily via perspiration, but dogs and cats essentially are unable to sweat. Pets primarily eliminate body heat through their respirations or panting which is less efficient than sweating. This is why short-nosed dog such as pugs and bulldogs are most vulnerable to heat strokes. Heat strokes are common in pets and signs to look for are excessive or exaggerated panting, lethargy, weakness, drooling, high fever, dark red gums, rapid heartbeat, unresponsiveness to surroundings and vomiting. Make sure you pets stay extra hydrated in warm weather.
Automobiles are very dangerous and every summer there are countless pets that develop heatstroke and die inside a locked car. The temperature inside a car can rise 40 degrees in only one hour. The bottom line is to never leave your pet in a car in the warmer months, not even for a few minutes. Also be sure to avoid hot surfaces. Hot sidewalks, beaches and other surfaces can severely injure pet’s paw pads which is another common injury.
Contrary to popular thought, pet’s coat insulates them from the cold and the heat, so shaving them down to the skin is not the best strategy. It is acceptable to trim a longhaired dog’s fur, particularly the long fur that hangs around their legs; and it is especially wise to brush your dogs and cats more often in the summertime which cools them by thinning out the thick coat and gets rid of the stagnant shedding hair.
Just like people, it is best to make sure your pet avoids exercise during the hottest parts of the day, and to provide shade to escape the direct heat of the sun.
In summary, keeping your pets safe in “the dog (and cat) days of summer” simply means to use common sense. Avoid excessive activity during the hottest times of the day, make sure your pets always have plenty of fresh water and access to shade, don’t shave their insulating coats yet hygiene trims are acceptable, and remember pets can get sunburned too so use pet-friendly sunscreen to their hairless exposed skin areas. This way you can enjoy the summertime with peace of mind.