The heat of summer brings fun activities like swimming, camping, and bonfires. But it can also present a host of dangers for your pet. Here are five ways to keep your pet safe this summer so she can join in on the summer fun.
- Watch out for hot pavement
Imagine walking barefoot across a hot blacktop. Although an animal’s paws have thicker skin than our feet, they can still be burnt by hot surfaces. Sidewalks and paved roads can become dangerously hot, causing burns and blisters on your dog’s foot pads. When walking your dog, always feel the surface of the pavement with your hand. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet. When the sidewalks get too hot, keep your pet on the grass or walk her in the evening when temperatures cool.
- Resist shaving your pet’s haircoat
An animal’s coat is designed to regulate her body temperature in both cold and hot weather. In hot weather, the hair actually traps cool air next to the skin, helping to keep her body temperature down. Although you may think that shaving the coat will allow your pet to sweat out the heat, dogs and cats have very few sweat glands over their bodies (with most concentrated in the feet) and cannot effectively cool down this way. The major cooling mechanism used by your pet is panting. As air moves over the moist tissues of the mouth and nose, moisture evaporates, dissipating heat. Though it may be hard to believe, shaving a dog’s coat will actually increase her risk of overheating and can also cause her skin to sunburn.
- Be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion
If exposed to high temperatures, especially for long periods of time, your pet’s body temperature can become dangerously high. Overheating, also called heat exhaustion or heat stroke, can lead to serious consequences, including death. Your pet should never be left outside for long periods of time, especially unattended, in the heat. When your pet is outside, she should always have access to water and shade. When exercising in the heat, dogs should be given frequent breaks and have access to water at all times. Be aware that some dog breeds, particularly those with shorter muzzles (such as bulldogs and pugs), are more susceptible to overheating and should not be taken out in the heat at all.
Signs of heat exhaustion include:
-confusion or disorientation
-vomiting and/or diarrhea
If your pet shows signs of heat exhaustion, move her to a cooler area and offer her water immediately. Get her wet using cool (not cold) water (if you lower her body temperature too rapidly, other dangerous complications can occur). Start your car, turn on the air conditioning, and bring her to our office for an evaluation. Severe heat exhaustion is an emergency, as it can quickly advance to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. And, even if your pet seems to have recovered at home, other complications can arise later.
- Never leave your pet inside a vehicle
The inside of a vehicle can become unbearably hot in a surprisingly short amount of time, even with the windows cracked. Because the rays of sun that penetrate a car’s windows can warm the interior of the vehicle to well over 100 degrees even when the outside temperature is only in the 70’s, it is never a good idea to leave your pet in the car, even to run a short errand. If you see a pet who appears to be showing signs of heat exhaustion while closed inside a car, call the police immediately. The pet needs to be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible because heat exhaustion advances quickly.
- Don’t assume that all dogs can swim
Swimming can be a great way for your canine friend to keep cool during the dog days of summer. However, you should not assume that every dog likes the water or has an instinctual knowledge of how to swim. Some breeds, like the Labrador retriever, love the water, whereas others have no desire to swim. A dog should never be thrown into deep water and expected to “doggy paddle.” She may panic and can even drown. Let your dog walk into the water on her own, at the edge, where the water gradually becomes deeper. Keep your dog on a leash as she learns to swim so she doesn’t venture too far into the water.
We want you and your furry companion to enjoy the last weeks of summer together. If you need advice about how to keep your pet safe during summertime activities, call us at 757-564-9815.