How Summer Heat Affects Your Pet
Heat stress is as dangerous for Pets as it is for humans. It doesn’t take long for a Pet’s health to quickly decline in hot temperatures. As you prepare to maximize your comfort during the hot summer days, make plans for keeping Pets cool, too. Summer pet safety is simple when you have the right knowledge and tools.
The Dangers of Summer Heat
Dog, cats and other furry companions don a permanent fur coat that they can’t remove. While dogs and cats pant and sweat through their paws to regulate their body temperature on hot days, these actions sometimes aren’t enough to prevent heat stress.
Despite having bodies covered in fur, Pets are susceptible to sunburns. Their tender paws can also get burned on hot streets, sidewalks, patios and sand. If the ground is too hot for your bare feet, it is too hot for a Pet’s paws.
Signs of Heat Stress
Heat-related illnesses in pets include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most dangerous, as it can lead to seizures, organ failure, brain damage, blindness and death. Sometimes the effects of extreme heat stress are irreversible.
Some Pet breeds are more susceptible to heat stress than others, such as brachycephalic dogs. Pets that are more vulnerable to heat stress also include those that are:
• Ill or on medication
• Diagnosed with circulatory, heart or lung problems
• Treated for hyperthyroidism
Heat exhaustion is one of the early stages of heat stroke. It begins when your Pet starts to overheat. Symptoms include:
• Rapid panting
• Pale gums
• Bright red gums, eyes or tongue
• Excessive thirst
• Rapid or irregular heart beats
• Sticky saliva
• The skin inside the ears turns red
If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately bring your Pet indoors and out of the sun. If you don’t have an air conditioner, take it to the coolest room in the home (e.g., the basement) or near a fan. Give it fresh cool water to drink. Use a sponge to wet your Pet’s skin, and allow the water to air-dry. The fan blowing air over the wet skin will produce a cooling effect. Then call the vet for further instructions.
Summer Pet Safety Tips
If you normally take your dog for a walk or run every day, take it out in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are significantly cooler. Keep in mind that on warmer days, your dog might not be able to travel as far as normal. Always take extra water for yourself and your dog to prevent dehydration.
If the sidewalk feels warm, but ambient temperatures seem reasonable, take your dog to a park so it can walk on grass.
Water evaporates quickly in warm weather, so Pets need extra water in their bowls during the summer. If your Pet is allowed outdoors and indoors, keep extra bowls of fresh water in a shady spot outside. On particularly hot days, add ice to the water.
When a dog or cat digs in the yard and lies down in the dirt, it’s seeking a cool place to rest. Make cooling off simpler for your Pet by hanging tree shades or tarps, or using beach umbrellas in your yard.
Doghouses are not a good shade option during the summer because the temperatures inside are often warmer than the temperatures outside, and they often lack proper airflow.
Fans Don’t Always Help
Fans simply move air. They don’t necessarily cool the temperature in a respective area. Humans feel cooler when a fan is on because the moving air helps the sweat on the skin evaporate. Since Pets don’t sweat like humans, they need to be in a cool area so their bodies stay cooler.
If you have air conditioning in your home, and your Pet can enter and leave throughout the day, give it some extra shade outside if you don’t have a covered porch or patio.
If your don’t have air conditioning in your home and your area experiences a heat wave, consider keeping your Pet in an air conditioned kennel while you’re at work until temperatures cool.
Keep Pets at Home While Running Errands
Brain damage or death from heat stroke takes less than 15 minutes in a hot car.
While your Pet might love traveling in the car with you, it is best to keep it at home while you run errands during the summer, even when temperatures don’t seem hot. It only takes a few minutes for a car to reach 120 degrees when outside temperatures are 78 degrees. When outside temperatures reach 90 degrees, it takes less than 10 minutes for temperatures inside a car to reach up to 160 degrees. Even cracking your windows and parking in the shade will still expose Pets to dangerous temperatures.
If you must travel with your Pets, take someone with you who can sit with your beloved companions in a shady area outside the car while you run errands.
Some dogs love water. On hot summer days, let your dog splash in a kiddy pool to cool off or turn on the sprinkler for a refreshing game of fetch.
Cool your Pet from the inside out with frozen treats. Dogs love frozen yogurt and popsicles made with Pet-safe ingredients. Freeze soft cat food in ice cube trays to give your cat a cool snack.
Conditions that you feel most comfortable in are also comfortable for your Pet. Keeping Pets cool throughout the summer will make the season memorable for the right reasons and ensure that your companion stays healthy and happy. If you ever have any concerns about your Pet’s summer health, play it safe and consult with a veterinarian.