The hot summer months can be brutal for pets, just as they are for humans.
Since dogs and cats sweat only through their pads, their main method for getting rid of heat is by panting. However, it’s not as simple as that.
“It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet,” says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.”
In addition, some pets are more susceptible to heat stroke than others: animals with flat faces (e.g., Pugs, Persian cats), the elderly and the overweight. It is important to keep these pets in particular in an air-conditioned area as much as possible.
However, hot temperatures can be a danger for all pets. Here are some ways to keep your pet happy and healthy during the hottest months of the year:
1. Never leave your pet in your car, even in the shade with the windows cracked, or in a stuffy room.
2. Walks should be at dawn and dusk, or at least before 8 am and after 6 pm. Definitely limit walks in the middle of the day.
3. Have ready access to cool, fresh water. Take a bottle of water with you when walking your pet. If you’re going out, leave an extra bowl of water in case one gets knocked over. Add ice cubes to water to make it extra cool.
4. Brush your pets regularly. Some cats and dogs also benefit from ‘lion cuts,’ but don’t cut them too short, as this may cause sunburn when they are outside.
5. Limit the time on asphalt as temperatures can be very hot. Press the back of your hand firmly for seven seconds on the asphalt where you plan to walk your dog to make sure it will be comfortable for your pet. Doggy booties are also highly recommended!
6. If you don’t have air conditioning, use fans to increase air circulation. Open, screened windows can help, but make sure the screens are secure so that pets cannot push through them.
7. Don’t bring your pet with you if your car doesn’t have air conditioning or is poorly ventilated.
8. Never leave your pets unattended at a pool. Some dogs are not very good swimmers, so be sure to introduce the water gradually and always put a floatation device on your pet when on a boat. Some pools contain chemicals that could cause an upset stomach. Rinse your dog off after swimming to help prevent this.
9. Know the signs of heatstroke. They include: heavy panting, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, mild weakness or even collapse, diarrhea, seizures and vomiting.
10. Understand what to do if you think your pet is overheated. First, move your pet into the shade or an air conditioned area and spend no longer than five minutes wetting down your pet all over with cool water or apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck and chest. She can also drink the water or lick the ice cubes. Next, contact your veterinarian to let them know you are on the way, and get going. Do not take a ‘wait and see’ approach.
As always, our pets depend on us for their health and safety. Enjoy the summer!
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